Truckers: California legislature should regulate terminal operators
The California Assembly’s Select Committee on Gasoline Competition, Marketing and Pricing will hold a joint hearing today with the Transportation Committee to hear proposals on ways to reduce gasoline prices at the pump.
Stephanie Williams, senior vice president of the California Trucking Association, said she plans to request legislation requiring that ocean carriers and terminal operators set fair rates for trucking companies that include the application of fuel surcharges when fuel prices rapidly rise.
Gasoline and diesel fuel prices are much higher in California than in the rest of the country, primarily because state air quality standards require the use of special cleaner-burning fuel blends to reduce emissions. Since Jan. 1, motor fuel prices have climbed more than 50 cents per gallon in California. Last week retail gasoline prices averaged $2.15 per gallon in California compared to $1.81 for the nation as a whole, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trucking companies that use diesel fuel paid $2.26 per gallon compared to $1.72 in the rest of the country. In some regions, such as the Gulf Coast and the Lower Atlantic, diesel fuel prices were in the $1.63-per-gallon range.
Supply is limited because California is the only state in the country with such standards and oil companies have built a limited amount of refinery capacity to produce the special fuels. Some also complain high fuel prices and refinery profits are due to a lack of competition in the oil industry.
The hearing will focus on the question of whether California has a functioning competitive market for motor fuels.
Williams said liner carriers refuse to pass fuel cost increases to their shipper customers, thus forcing trucking companies and independent drivers to swallow diesel fuel price hikes.
“It’s a seriously broken system. It needs to be regulated because it’s not a free market” when it comes to factory-to-door moves in which ocean carriers also manage truck transportation from the dock to the customer.
“Every trucking company that has a relationship with a shipper sets a surcharge. The only place where surcharges don’t exist is at the ports because the steamship lines have moved in to control the trucking market, which I believe is antitrust,” Williams said in an interview.
The California Trucking Association has a history of grievances with the terminals. Last year the organization pushed legislation to prevent terminal and vessel operators from imposing equipment-handling charges, late fees and certain types of work rules on motor carriers.
Other witnesses at the 9:30 a.m. hearing are the commissioner of the California Energy Commission, economists and fuel industry officials.