Report: Port truckers can’t afford maintenance
A new report by supporters of the Clean Truck program in the Port of Los Angeles said “the combined costs for clean truck leases and vehicle maintenance are financially out of reach for individual port truck drivers.”
Southern California trucking companies must resume financial responsibility for their truck fleets or the new engines will pollute, the report added.
“Anything short of a port trucking market that economists refer to as ‘asset-based’ — meaning trucking companies are rightfully in charge of owning, operating and maintaining their own fleets — will result in a bankrupted workforce and a clean-air Catch-22,” said the report, From Clean to Clunker: The Economics of Emissions Control.
More than 6,500 trucks serving the San Pedro Bay port complex meet or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2007 heavy-duty truck emissions standards. But the report said, “between typical wear-and-tear repairs and routine maintenance on a new low-emissions truck, the cost exceeds $8,500 annually. This financial obligation is 70 percent more than what a typical port truck driver paid each year to keep his or her old diesel truck operating, severely reducing the driver's meager take-home pay.”
The lead author is Sejal Patel of LAANE, described as an advocacy organization and part of the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports. The Teamsters and other groups such as the BlueGreen Alliance, a group that includes the Sierra Club and several other unions, provided staff or funding for the study.
The report said the cost of maintaining a clean truck in its first 12 months of service is $2,200 and accelerates to $60,000 over the typical seven-year life of a lease.
The report said prior to the adoption of the Clean Truck Program, owner-operators “were economically forced to take shortcuts or rely on ‘curbside fix-it men’ for vehicle repair on their high-mileage, polluting rigs. Drivers are now contractually required to take 2007 U.S. EPA-compliant trucks to California state-approved licensed mechanics for all maintenance and repairs.”
The report was unveiled a week, before a U.S. district court judge is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit by the American Trucking Association that blocked Los Angeles from implementing a plan that would favor larger trucking companies with employee drivers for port work.
In March 2009, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prevented implementation of the Port of Los Angeles' employee requirement and sent the issue back to district court, saying “Los Angeles port's independent contractor phase-out provision is highly likely to be found preempted and enjoined.” That led to next week’s hearing.
In the meantime, advocates for the change are lobbying for a change in federal law, to give ports a freer hand in imposing such regulations. A hearing by the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the House Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittee on the issue is scheduled for May 5 in Washington. ' Chris Dupin