Court overturns Los Angeles port’s owner-operator ban

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday, Sept. 26, unanimously overturned a ban on owner-operators at the Port of Los Angeles, but also upheld several regulatory port requirements relating to truck parking, financial capability, maintenance and placard requirements.

The American Trucking Associations, which brought the suit against the port, hailed the decision regarding independent contractors as a victory for the trucking industry and consumers and was pondering further appeal on the other provisions.

“By striking down the port’s unjustified ban on owner-operators, the court has upheld the rights of trucking companies to structure their businesses to maximize efficiency and productivity,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “By throwing out the ban, the court has ensured that competition, not government regulation, will establish motor carrier’s rates, routes and services. This is a win for all involved – trucking companies, small business owner-operators, freight shippers and, ultimately, average American consumers.”

Graves said the historic gains in air quality the port cites frequently as a result of its Clean Trucks Program show that the interests of clean air have been served without running independent contractors out of the port. “This ban was never about clean air – it was about promoting special interests of a few well-connected labor groups,” he said. “Successful clean trucks plans in Long Beach, Seattle and the Ports of New York and New Jersey have shown you can improve air quality without forcing owner-operators out of your port.”

The port said it would refrain from enforcing the employee driver provision and would continue to enforce all other facets of the concession agreement, which the port requires in order for trucking companies to haul freight to and from the port as part of its Clean Trucks Program. Robert Digges, ATA chief counsel, said the organization believes “the other challenged provisions of the concession agreement should have been preempted, as explained in a strong dissent by the panel’s chief judge. Should we appeal, that dissent will be very helpful to our effort.”