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American Shipper

FMC argues place in SoCal ports truck case

FMC argues place in SoCal ports truck case

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission filed a brief Friday explaining to a federal District Court that the agency is seeking to block portions of the Southern California ports' trucking re-regulation plan because the plan would reduce competition and increase transportation costs.

   The FMC filing was in response to an earlier request by the ports to dismiss the case on the grounds that the FMC does not have jurisdiction.

   In Friday's filing, the FMC argued the ports' claims the environmental benefits of the truck plan fall outside of the purvey of the agency are irrelevant.

   'The existence of environmental, safety and security concerns within the agreement's scope does not preclude commission jurisdiction,' the FMC wrote in the brief.

   The FMC is seeking to block an antitrust agreement sought by the ports from the FMC to allow the two port authorities to collude on issues related to the truck plan.

   The ports' truck program, which began in part on Oct. 1, seeks to replace more than 19,000 drayage trucks servicing the two ports with less emissive 2007 model year or newer models.

   'The commission's concern is the attempt by one competitor, the Port of Los Angeles, to use the agreement as the means to eliminate service to its marine terminals by independent owner-operator trucking companies,' the FMC wrote to the court.

   The ports have also argued that since portions of the truck plan being questioned by the FMC are different under each port's plan, these portions do not fall under the agreement.

   If the court, which is not expected to rule until next month, decides to grant the FMC-requested injunction, the main funding mechanism for the truck plan — a $35-per-TEU container tax — could be blocked. Given that both ports are now facing shrinking revenues, neither could long support the entire cost of the truck program for any length of time, according to port officials. In addition, state funds to the truck program — originally seen as a buffer until the container tax began generating revenue — have been frozen for up to a year due to state budgetary problems. ' Keith Higginbotham

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