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American Shipper

DOT, DOJ ask to join Circuit appeal against ports? truck program

DOT, DOJ ask to join Circuit appeal against portsÆ truck program

The U.S. departments of Transportation and Justice Tuesday requested to join a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case seeking to block portions of a trucking re-regulation program implemented by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles on Oct. 1.

      Attorneys for the DOT and Jusice filed the 35-page 'friend of the court' request, also arguing that a lower court misinterpreted federal laws in denying an injunction against the truck program sought by the American Trucking Associations.

      The Southern California ports' truck program seeks to replace nearly 17,000 drayage vehicles servicing the two ports with 2007 or newer trucks in an effort to cut ports-generated diesel pollution.   

The ports' plan implements a ban on older model year trucks, imposes a $35-per-TEU tax to pay for the replacement trucks and a 'concession agreement' system requires motor carriers to obtain ports-issued access licenses.

      The ports implemented a ban on all pre-1989 model year trucks on Oct. 1, and require all truck owners servicing the ports to have applied for or to have received an access license from the ports. The container tax, also set to be implemented on Oct. 1, has been delayed due to technical issues.

      In late July, the ATA sued the ports in U.S. District Court claiming that the access license component violates federal interstate commerce laws and that federal law preempts local regulation in this case. The trade group, which represents more than 37,000 motor carriers nationwide, also asked the court to issue an injunction barring the ports from implementing the access license requirement on Oct. 1.

      The District Court, while agreeing with much of the ATA argument regarding federal law, denied the injunction based on a safety and security exemption within federal preemption statutes and case law.

      In the filing Tuesday, the DOT and Justice argue that the lower court 'improperly expanded the limited exception to statutory preemption for motor vehicle safety regulation.'

      The U.S. agencies also say certain provisions of the access license system are 'plainly preempted' and other portions should be sent back to the lower court for reconsideration.

      The National Industrial Transportation League and the National Association of Waterfront Employers have also requested to join the case in support of the ATA position. ' Keith Higginbotham

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