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American Shipper

FMC action to delay SoCal ports truck plan

FMC action to delay SoCal ports truck plan

The Federal Maritime Commission took action Thursday that could delay the planned Oct. 1 start of a trucking re-regulation plan for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

   In a 2-1 vote, the commission decided to request additional information regarding a ports-filed amendment to an antitrust waiver that detailed how the ports would implement the truck plan.

   The agreement was originally filed with the FMC in August 2006 to allow the two ports to discuss planning and implementation of their omnibus Clean Air Action Plan, but the filing then contained no details of the truck plan that has since been approved by the ports.

   Earlier this year the two ports filed an amendment to the agreement, adding specific details of how the truck plan components would be implemented.

   Under federal law, the two ports are considered marine terminal operators (MTOs) and as such are not normally permitted to cooperate under antitrust laws. To obtain an antitrust waiver, the ports must file an MTO discussion agreement detailing the nature and details of the proposed agreement for FMC review. The ports are required under the Shipping Act of 1984 to amend any such FMC agreement if topics outside those originally listed are to be discussed and acted on jointly by the ports.

   FMC issued the request for information to attorneys for the two ports Thursday, saying that while it was not its intention to delay implementation of the agreement, the Shipping Act 'requires the commission to fully analyze the agreement that is now before it.'

   FMC is seeking answers to dozens of detailed questions, many dealing with the potential impacts of the truck plan on such things as the national economy, local workers, and security within the ports.

   It's questionable whether the ports would be able to satisfy the FMC request for additional information and receive approval for the agreement from the FMC in time for the planned Oct. 1 start date of the truck plan. On April 3, the FMC began a similar process of requesting information from the ports over a similar agreement, which did not see that particular agreement take affect until June 13, more than two months later.

   Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz, speaking at a public forum on the truck plan Friday, said the FMC request for additional information would not delay the Oct. 1 start date.

   Port of Long Beach officials said they were aware of the FMC request and planned to issue a statement later today, but declined to comment further.

   FMC officials said that while the ports original FMC agreement remains in effect, and the ports can still discuss the truck plan in general, the language added by the ports in the amendment — including the truck plan details — cannot be acted upon at this time.

   The truck plan details in the amendment include a ban on all pre-1989 trucks, the collection of a clean truck fee, and the adoption of an access license program.

   The FMC said the ports may not move forward on the details in the amendment until after the ports respond to the commission request and the it reviews the answers. If the ports decide to move ahead with the implementation of the truck plan prior to this review, it would open the ports up to legal action by the FMC, the agency said.

   The ports' $2.4 billion trucking plan, which seeks to replace or retrofit nearly 17,000 short-haul drayage trucks that regularly service the two ports, was introduce in early 2007 and approved by the two ports earlier this year. ' Keith Higginbotham