In a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, 29 national and state associations representing importers, exporters, logistics industries and service providers offered their support for the ports' clean air efforts, but pointed out results can be achieved without enacting new federal regulations.
Responding to the two mayors' joint announcement supporting the Port of Los Angeles Clean Trucks Plan and the mayors' call for amending the federal trucking rules in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), the groups said neither the Port of Los Angeles model nor the amendments to the FAAAA would achieve the desired goal.
Stating that they were “writing to express our grave disappointment in your October 19th announcement of support for the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program,” the groups said, “We fully support efforts by the ports, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to improve their air quality. However, there is absolutely no need for a change to longstanding federal law to achieve this goal, nor any justification on outlawing independent owner-operator trucking firms from serving our nation’s ports.”
“The objective of the Port of LA’s Clean Trucks Program that is both controversial and illegal under federal law is its design to eliminate the independent owner-operators from the port trucking business,” said the letter. “We strongly oppose this objective, and we oppose amending the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), as you have suggested, to achieve it. We are also disappointed that you have taken such a position without consulting with the Port of New York and New Jersey’s customers, and without considering the fact that such a change would in the end make the Port of New York and New Jersey much less competitive than it is today.”
Members of the groups signing the letter pointed out they “move a substantial amount of the nation’s international commerce through America’s marine ports and along the surface transportation network of roads and rails.” The harbor trucking industry is an integral component in the supply chains of US industry they said.
“We have an interest in making sure that the harbor trucking industry operates safely, efficiently and in an environmentally responsible manner. Many of our members are actively working with transportation providers to replace as quickly as possible the older harbor trucks serving marine terminals around the country with highly innovative clean equipment.”
The port users also pointed out the mayors had noted in their press release, “over 5,500 new clean burning vehicles are on Southern California’s roads, moving nearly 70% of all cargo—three years ahead of schedule to meet emission reduction targets.” The group said this was a significant achievement that occurred without a change in federal law.
the letter added that, “The argument that port trucking services should be exempted from federal preemption in order to improve air quality is fallacious, and has nothing to do with clean air.” They were referring to a concession requirement in the Los Angeles program that would have banned any harbor trucking company from using independent owner-operator drivers, in favor of employee drivers. That issue has been at the heart of a number of legal challenges.
The US District Court for the Central District of California determined that the ports' concession plans regulate interstate trucking "prices, routes, and services" and thus were preempted by the FAAAA, the letter points out. This was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The letter notes, “The Port of Long Beach has settled their lawsuit with the American Trucking Associations. According to Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke: 'The settlement … clears the way for the Port and the trucking industry to move forward, together, with a program that has been highly successful in reducing air pollution.' He went on to further say: 'The NRDC’s real objection to our program has nothing to do with clean air. By aligning itself with the Teamsters, who have been very public about their campaign to unionize port truckers nationwide, the NRDC is pursuing an agenda beyond air quality.'”
The groups conclude saying, “We support continued efforts to improve air quality at America’s ports. These improvements will be achieved quickly without any change to federal law. Already in Southern California, the Clean Trucks Program has resulted in the removal of 5,500 dirty trucks from service and replaced them with new and cleaner equipment. A change to federal law or the inclusion of an employee mandate is not required to advance this goal.”
They ask the mayors to, “reconsider your position on this issue. It is time for us to work together in the common objective of improving air quality at our nation’s ports, and to stop this poorly disguised effort to put law-abiding independent owner operators of clean trucks out of business.”