IWLA Urges Congress to Preserve Federal Preemption of Port Trucking

May 10, 2010 (DES PLAINES, IL) – The International Warehouse Logistics Association is urging Congress to reject legislative language that would weaken federal preemption of state and local regulation of trucking in the nation's ports because it is a backdoor attempt to drive independent owner-operator truckers out of business at those locations.

In a May 4 letter to Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman, and John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN), ranking minority member of the House on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, IWLA President Joel D. Anderson said proposed amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act would undermine federal preemption by allowing local governments to regulate port trucking when it comes to address environmental and port security matters.

“The proposed amendments are not really about environmental and security concerns at the nation's ports,” Mr. Anderson said in his letter. “They are an attempt to gain through legislation what the courts have found to be unlawful: local regulation of truck drayage services at the nation's ports. Specifically, the proposed amendments are designed to allow the ports to ban independent owner-operators in favor of employee drivers.”

He added, “We urge the Committee to oppose these amendments, which would eliminate competition from small independent businesses. In addition, the proposed legislation would result in local regulation of freight moving in interstate and foreign commerce. Not only is this prohibited by statute and the Constitution, but it threatens to impose yet another burden on the one industry, trade and commerce, which has added jobs during this recession.”

IWLA's commercial warehouse and third-party logistics members are responsible for the distribution over 80% of the goods stored and moved through private and contract warehouses. The association's members operate in all port districts, in all states and in Canada.

An earlier attempt by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to ban independent truckers was overturned by federal court on the grounds of federal preemption. Recently other port cities in the U.S. have expressed interest in pursuing a similar course, including New York.

Current federal law preempts state and local regulation of trucking in interstate and foreign commerce except in regard to safety. The proposed amendments would undermine federal preemption by granting local governments the authority to regulate the port trucking industry to address environmental and port security matters.

Proponents of the amendment improperly characterize the need for change as necessary to improve air quality and port security. Several major U.S. ports, including the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Seattle, have already initiated very successful Clean Truck Programs, Mr. Anderson pointed out to the subcommittee leaders. He cited the example of the California Air Resources Board which, in conjunction with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, implemented a clean trucks program that led to an estimated 80% reduction in diesel emissions two years ahead of its target date.

“This occurred without changing federal law,” Mr. Anderson noted. “This and similar efforts underway at other major U.S. ports demonstrate that it is not necessary to rewrite longstanding federal trucking laws to accomplish significant environmental improvements in port areas.”

In addition, port trucking operations receive comprehensive security oversight by the Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and other agencies, he said. “It makes no sense to add yet another fragmented layer of local port security regulations on interstate and foreign commerce in and around the ports when port security is clearly a major federal priority.”

Mr. Anderson said, “The United States is a country whose economy depends upon foreign trade and commerce, which is why the federal government retains sole jurisdiction over interstate and foreign trade. It is a grave mistake to give local governments the ability to regulate the interstate and foreign movement of freight to the detriment of the nation's economy.”

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