L.A. port approves truck plan with employee-only licensing scheme
Port of Los Angeles Commissioners approved a port-access licensing scheme Thursday that will replace independent owner-operator drayage drivers servicing the port with an hourly employee workforce by the end of 2013.
The licensing scheme, approved unanimously by the five-member board, is a key component of a $2.2 billion truck re-regulation plan that seeks to reduce drayage fleet diesel emissions by replacing or retrofitting the 17,000-strong fleet of trucks servicing the Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach ports.
'The approval of the concession agreement marks a major milestone in creating an efficient, reliable short-haul trucking system that will produce rapid improvements and air quality while supporting the port’s long-term business and security-related goals,” said Los Angeles Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman.
Originally introduced by the two ports in April 2007 as part of an omnibus environmental plan to reduce port-related pollution, the truck plan would begin Oct. 1 with a ban excluding certain model year trucks. Additional bans over the next five years would eventually eliminate all trucks servicing the ports that do not meet 2007 emission standards.
An already approved $35-per-TEU container tax, paid for by the cargo owner, would raise $1.6 billion of the estimated $2.2 billion needed by the two ports to replace or retrofit trucks with models meeting 2007-model-year emission standards. Ports-servicing trucking firms would have to obtain a license from the ports to enter port terminals after Oct. 1. To obtain a license, the firms would need to meet certain port-defined criteria on topics such as financial, regulatory and labor compliance.
The two ports, while developing the truck plan jointly, have adopted different language on the licensing scheme. The Los Angeles version adopted Thursday mandates that all drivers servicing the Los Angeles port be employees of licensed motor carriers, while Long Beach port officials chose to adopt language allowing independent owner-operator drivers, employee drivers or any combination of the two. More than 80 percent of the nearly 17,000-drayage drivers servicing the two ports are independent owner-operators, and numerous surveys indicate most wish to maintain this status.
The two ports' licensing schemes are both vehemently opposed by the trucking industry as violations of interstate commerce. The Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference, an arm of the American Trucking Association, said Thursday's vote by the Los Angeles port was expected but does not change the ATA's plans to file a federal lawsuit over the truck plan in the near future.
'The port commissioners continue to surprise me in their willingness to provide us with examples of why the lawsuit will prevail,' said IMCC Executive Director Curtis Whalen. 'I have to thank the commissioners for putting down the final elements of our lawsuit for us.'
Whalen would not say when the ATA might file a lawsuit over the ports' truck plan, but implied it would be by the end of summer.
The Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission is expected to vote on their version of the licensing scheme within the next few weeks. ' Keith Higginbotham