Wednesday, January 6, 2010

American Trucking Association Still Embroiled In Court Battle Over Freight Trucks

Latest on Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
Shipping News Feature

CALIFORNIA – US – The American Trucking Association (ATA) has given details of its plans to alter the intentions of the Port of Los Angeles as to who is allowed access under the concession plan proposed by Port authorities. In what appears to be a civilised dispute, the ATA yesterday filed its final response seeking a summary judgement for its challenge. Summary judgement would allow the Court to decide certain aspects of a case without recourse to trial providing there is no dispute between the two parties regarding the facts of the matter.

The full response can be seen on the ATA website here but the crux of the matter seems to be that the Court make permanent the preliminary decisions it has already made, that is that “sovereign tidelands”***  should remain within the remit of the Federal Government when interstate traffic is concerned, the Port of LA is not directly involved in the supply of drayage services, therefore does not qualify for federal pre-emption and finally that the requirements by the port authorities as to the phasing out of independent operators and their demands for financial information, signage, restricted parking etc. was not “genuinely responsive” to motor safety.

The case has a decidedly constitutional side to it; the individual operators who are represented by the ATA could not reasonably be expected to mount a challenge to the Port Authorities without the support of the Association.

The Port of Los Angeles will be able to present their own cross motion for summary judgement on the 11th January when both sides will appear before the Court. The ATA maintain that a settlement including small independent truckers is possible and LA’s position has been taken purely to support the Teamsters Union.

Meanwhile the Port of Long Beach found itself the receivers of a lawsuit this week. Environmental group the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have filed a suit which is intended to overturn the agreement made between the Long Beach Harbour Commission and the ATA. For their part the NRDC state that the deal “illegally reverses efforts to improve air quality.” David Pettit, Director of NRDC's Southern California Clean Air Program said, "This deal puts the wolf in charge of the henhouse -- with a likely result of dirtier air for local communities. Industry cannot be allowed to dictate clean air efforts and rollback the Port's clean air advancements."

The ATA strenuously deny the accusations of collusion to the detriment of the environment. They point out they have always supported the Clean Truck programmes in both LA and Long Beach and cite the claims of an 80% reduction in truck pollution with 8,000 older and less efficient trucks retiring since the schemes inception. The NRDC maintain that with the ATA having the last word over amendments to the rights of access to the ports of California, and indeed countrywide, there are no set standards for emission reductions and no sanctions against those who break any. The ATA reply that it is the intention of the NRDC and the Sierra Club to force all independent truck operators out of work and the latest suit is an angry response to a perfectly reasonable settlement.

Background information on the Clean Truck Program and the history of the disputes can be seen in our November and December summaries.

       *** basically “sovereign tidelands” originally meant areas of a state below navigable waters, but in the 1860’s, and for the next few years California lumped tideland and swampland together then sold it off to all and sundry. Tens of thousands of acres, including vast tracts of Los Angeles county went into private hands and still presents the type of problem we see with the current case. The Port of Los Angeles sits on, and owns, the sovereign tidelands of San Pedro Bay. There is however legal precedent, firmly established in law, that the interests of the United States are paramount when matters of foreign or interstate access to or from navigable waters is involved.

Pic: Californian Sea Lion sitting on a buoy (courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles)