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American Shipper

Truck fee collection at SoCal ports to start Nov. 17

Truck fee collection at SoCal ports to start Nov. 17

Marine terminal operators in the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach said Thursday they will begin collecting fees on Nov. 17 to subsidize the ports’ clean truck program.

   Enforcement of electronic gate access at container terminals will commence a week earlier, on Nov. 10.

   On Oct. 1 the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports implemented the first stage of their program to significantly cut diesel emissions from trucks shuttling containers to and from their complexes. Under the plan to modernize the truck fleet, trucks built before 1989 are now banned from the ports and older trucks are progressively phased out in the coming years until the entire fleet of 17,000 trucks has 2007 or newer engines. The plan also includes a $35-per-TEU fee to help subsidize truck replacements and a new licensing regime for trucking firms that meet a long list of port qualifications.

   The fees, equal to $70 for a 40-foot box, will be directly collected from cargo owners instead of truckers by PortCheck Inc., a not-for-profit company established by the local terminals collaborating in a federally approved discussion agreement.

   The ports had to resort to a sticker system to identify compliant trucks and postpone collection of the $35 fee on Oct. 1 because the electronic payment and tracking system was not ready. The PortCheck system will rely on radio frequency identification devices affixed to each delivery truck and readers at the terminals to monitor the traffic and only allow compliant trucks into the port.

   Beginning Nov. 17 no cargo will be allowed to enter or exit a terminal until the cargo owner goes to the PortCheck Web site and claims their container.

   Customers have direct payment (debit card, credit card or electronic check) or account-based options for paying the fee, PortCheck Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wargo, said in a conference call with reporters. Companies with account privileges will get credit approval that allows them to claim containers and receive a bill each Monday for the previous weeks activity.

   PortCheck is piggybacking on the pre-existing PierPass program the ports established in 2005 to reduce local congestion by shifting more container traffic to off-peak hours. PierPass Inc., the not-for-profit company established by the terminal operators to manage the program, collects $50 per TEU for daytime gate usage to support nighttime and weekend gate operations.

   PortCheck is relying on the same information technology provider, BV Systems of Irvine, Calif., that supports the PierPass system. Wargo, who also heads PierPass, stressed that the accounts and money for the two programs are managed separately in order to maintain their tax-exempt status even though they utilize the same underlying technology.

   PortCheck and the ports signed a service contract two months ago, but the terminal operators have been developing the fee collection system since early this year.

   Prior to the availability of the official PortCheck Web site, cargo owners not already registered with PierPass can register on the PierPass Web site at www.pierpass-tmf.org.

   Cargo owners already registered in PierPass will be automatically uploaded to PortCheck once they accept the terms and conditions.

   PortCheck said it will hold a Webinar on Nov. 12 at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time to explain how to use the Web site, claim cargo, pay the fee and other elements of the programs. The Webinar can be accessed at portcheck.webex.com and will be archived there for future viewing. ' Eric Kulisch

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