Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Trucking Community Watches As California Clean Trucks Program Unfolds

Los Angeles Court Case Continues into the New Year as Pollution Levels Drop
Shipping News Feature

CALIFORNIA – US – The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That seems to be the motto for environmental groups and political heavyweights who have expressed support for the Port of Los Angeles fight in their ongoing Court case against the American Trucking Association (ATA). In the bid to ensure that all vehicles working throughout the ports conform to the latest regulations, Los Angeles and the neighbouring Port of Long Beach appear to have taken slightly different stances with quite dramatically different results in terms of industrial relations.

Last week a group of independent truckers attempted to join the action by the ATA against the Port of Los Angeles. The National Port Drivers Association (NAPA), a loose collective of independent trucking companies, are pointing out their objections to the LA ruling that no funding has been made available to assist their members retro fit the emissions control devices necessary to permit access to the docks from 1st January. As of that date all pre 1993 lorries will be barred entry and any registered between then and 2003 will also be excluded unless the necessary anti pollution systems are in place.

Speaking to the Handy Shipping Guide, Mr Clayton W Boyce, a Vice President of the ATA told us of the organisations sympathy for owner operators and reiterated the organisation’s strong support for the clean air programme and the consequential retirement schedule for older trucks. He pointed out however that the ATA doubted that the NAPA drivers attempt to join the ATA lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles at this late stage would prove successful.

In his statement Mr Boyce said,

“The ATA has settled with the Port of Long Beach but the Port of Los Angeles continues. We support the banning of old trucks, to clean the air, while we continue to seek to eliminate the onerous requirements of concession plans. The case is expected to go to trial in February 2010. Until a verdict is reached, most of the requirements of the concession plan are enjoined from being enforced. We do not agree with the independent truck companies who are seeking a delay in the latest iteration of the truck ban.”

The difference in approach between Long Beach and LA is seen by some as a surreptitious attempt by the latter to ensure only union registered drivers can work within the port. The smaller independents are principally non union whilst larger companies employ Teamster registered staff. By obstructing access to smaller operators Los Angeles seems to have a different approach to Long Beach which welcomes any driver in a properly equipped truck. Long Beach officials claim that, even before the regulations have become compulsory, they have seen an 80% reduction in vehicular pollution.

The strong pro union lobby has managed to get support from senior public figures in the campaign by the Teamsters to have federal law revised in their favour. The independents’ complaint is that the policy of Los Angeles is a direct threat to a minority group who are not being given the same financial support and access to future work as the larger unionised firms. Experience shows that an all unionised dock environment can sometimes come back to haunt the port operators at a later date. Already we have seen trucks flooding the streets. Comparisons between London in the 1960’s and 70’s and the recent Greek dock strikes are readily drawn.

Drivers unsure as to whether their vehicles will comply should they require access to the Port of Los Angeles after 31st December should check for more information here.

Pic: Pier 400 Container Terminal Los Angeles Courtesy of Port of Los Angeles