Pelosi urges FMC to move SoCal truck plan forward
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged the Federal Maritime Commission to allow an antitrust agreement between the Southern California ports and marine terminal operators to move forward.
The agreement, filed by officials of the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports in February, would allow the ports and marine terminal operators to discuss provisions and implementation details of the ports' Clean Air Action Plan and one of its major components, a $2.2 billion drayage overhaul program approved by officials of the neighboring ports earlier this year.
In an April 18 letter to FMC commissioners, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said that while the FMC traditionally has 'limited its consideration of a port plan to the question of whether it would decrease the supply of transportation service or unreasonable increase the costs to shippers,' the commission needs to consider broader issues of public health and safety.
The ports' truck plan seeks to cut diesel emissions from port activity by replacing or retrofitting the nearly 17,000 vehicles in the ports' drayage fleet to meet 2007 model year emission standards by 2012.
The first stage of the truck plan, a ban of more than 3,000 pre-1989 trucks, would take affect on Oct 1.
The two ports, considered by most of the industry as one port, have agreed on similar versions of the plan albeit with slightly differing language and implementation details. A key difference between the two plans as adopted is Los Angeles port officials requiring all truck drivers under the plan be employees of trucking firms. Currently, more than 80 percent of the drayage fleet serving the two ports comprises independent owner-operators. The plan adopted by Long Beach port officials allows trucking firms to hire independent owner-operators, employees, or any combination of the two.
The American Trucking Association and a group of retailers, taking exception to various details of the two port plans, have each threatened to initiate separate lawsuits if the ports implement the truck plan.
In her letter to the FMC, Pelosi urged the four sitting commissioners to reject the threatened lawsuits and allow the port agreement to move forward.
The FMC commissioners met behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss the Southern California truck plan, though no ruling or statement was issued following the meeting.
On April 3, the FMC stopped the clock on the ports' submission of the antitrust agreement with terminal operators by requesting the ports answer more than 50 questions regarding the truck plan and the CAAP.
An agreement filed with the FMC normally goes into effect 45 days after filing if the FMC reviews it and decides to do nothing. However, the FMC can stop the clock on the process by requesting more information from the filers or by seeking an injunction in federal court.
Once the ports submit their answers to the FMC, the clock starts again and the commission can allow the agreement to take effect after 45 days, request more information or stop the agreement by seeking an injunction.
According to the Shipping Act of 1984, the commissioners can seek an injunction stopping the agreement only if the agreement is determined to lead to 'an unreasonable reduction in transportation service or an unreasonable increase in transportation costs.'
In her letter, Pelosi only references the Los Angeles employee-only version of the truck plan and claims that the Los Angeles plan does not violate the Shipping Act.
'Since port trucking costs are a relatively small component of overall transportation costs,' Pelosi wrote, 'the increased operational costs required by this program will not be unreasonable or burdensome and will be far outweighed by the overwhelming public benefits.' ' Keith Higginbotham