“Don’t Change Federal Law on Port Trucking,” NRF Urges Congress

The National Retail Federation has asked Congress to reject attempts to change federal law to allow the nation’s ports to regulate harbor trucking, saying environmental goals are already being met without the need for further regulatory authority.

“NRF applauds the great success of the Clean Trucks Plan as implemented by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” NRF says. “In the first year of implementation, the ports have achieved 80% reduction in diesel air emissions from harbor trucks, reaching their goal two years ahead of schedule. This success was achieved without any changes to federal law. As such, we urge members of the subcommittee and Congress to reject efforts to rewrite longstanding federal trucking rules codified in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), in particular removing federal preemption of regulations on trucking rates, routes and service.”

NRF says its members have long been committed to reducing diesel emissions associated with short-haul harbor trucks but believe changes to the FAAAA aren’t necessary to reduce emissions or improve port security and safety, and could have far-reaching consequences on interstate commerce.

“Allowing the ports or other local entities the ability to regulate rates, routes and service for interstate and international trucking would wreak havoc on the commerce of the United States,” NRF says. “Trucking deregulation in the 1980s sought to eliminate the overlapping, inefficient patchwork of local and state regulations of rates, routes and service. The FAAAA preemption provision was enacted to make it absolutely clear that state and local entities had no business regulating in this area, which is constitutionally reserved to the federal government. Congress should eschew taking this dangerous step that is certain to have wide-ranging economic impacts on business and industry.”

The LA and Long Beach ports launched their Clean Truck Plans in 2008 in an attempt to reduce air pollution around the facilities. The plans require that trucks serving the ports meet or exceed 2007 Environmental Protection Agency emissions rules. The Port of Los Angles went further than Long Beach, however, accompanying its version of the plan with a requirement that only trucking companies with employee drivers be allowed at the port. LA officials said the concession plan was necessary because independent drivers would not be able to meet the cost of replacing trucks. According to NRF, the requirement is intended to make it easier for unions to organize port truckers.

The American Trucking Associations in 2008 filed a lawsuit arguing that the concession requirement was a violation of FAAAA provisions preempting local regulation of trucking as a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Both the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in favor of the ATA, issuing a temporary injunction that has put the concession requirements on hold.

The lawsuit went to trial last month, and the judge is expected to rule by mid-May. But while waiting for the case to go to trial, the Port of Los Angles has joined with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club in lobbying over the past several months to have the preemption repealed.

“This effort is, quite frankly, a bald-face effort to end run what is likely to be an unfavorable court decision,” NRF says.

NRF’s comments came in written testimony submitted to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

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