The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will ban the oldest drayage trucks from its terminals next Jan. 1 but won’t force owner-operator drivers to become company employees.
Next year’s ban on pre-1994 model trucks is part of a multistep program to reduce air pollution. Trucks with engines that don’t meet federal emissions standards for 2007 models will be banned after 2016.
Along with these sticks, the port authority is offering drayage operators a carrot: a previously announced program to provide $28 million, including $7 million in federal grants, to replace up to 636 pre-1994 model trucks.
The clean-trucks program is part of a broad effort by the port authority to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter from trucks, ships, locomotives, terminal equipment and other sources.
But unlike the Port of Los Angeles, the New York-New Jersey plan focuses on the truck and the not the driver. By not requiring owner-operators to become trucking company employees eligible to unionize, New York-New Jersey is likely to avoid the kind of litigation that has dogged Los Angeles’s clean-trucks plan.
The American Trucking Associations is suing to overturn an employer-driver requirement in the Los Angeles plan. The ATA contends the plan illegally pre-empts federal regulation of interstate commerce and amounts to illegal economic regulation of trucking routes, rates and services.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., joined the mayors of New York, Newark, N.J., Los Angeles and Oakland last year in urging federal law be amended to allow local regulation of harbor trucking. Chris Ward, the New York-New Jersey port authority’s executive director, wrote to Lautenberg and Nadler in support of amending the act.
Ward said the port’s clean-trucks plan sought to balance environmental obligations with truckers’ needs. “We have worked closely with all stakeholders to make sure that this new program will help clean up the pollution at our ports and, in the process, ensure that we do not overburden our already struggling port and trucking industry,” he said.
The Teamsters and environmental groups argue owner-operators — 70 percent of the port’s container haulers — can’t afford to buy and maintain newer trucks that emit less pollution. But last October, a port working group including environmentalists, labor, truckers and maritime interests did not include an employee-driver requirement in its recommendations on how to implement clean-air proposals.
That was fine with Cesar Vargas, head of Port Drivers Federation-18, which he said represents 1,300 drivers and is not affiliated with the Teamsters. He said his group’s members want to remain owner-operators.
Vargas, however, said the port’s truck-replacement plan is inadequate.
The program would provide grants to cover 25 percent of the cost of replacing pre-1994 trucks. It would subsidize the balance with five-year loans at 5.25 percent annual interest. Replacement trucks would have to be 2004-08 models equipped with engines from the 2004 to 2007 model years.
“The port authority’s plan would replace old trucks with old trucks,” Vargas said. He said a driver buying a pre-2007 truck under the program would pay off a five-year loan barely a year before the vehicle is banned from the port.
Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, which represents drayage companies, said his group supports the plan to replace pre-1994 trucks but questions the 2017 ban on pre-2007 trucks, especially if no funding is provided for a second round of truck replacement.
Port officials said they will seek additional Environmental Protection Agency grants to phase out pre-2007 trucks.
Tom Adamski, chairman of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association’s Bi-State Harbor Carriers Conference, questioned whether the port’s move to ban older trucks amounts to pre-emption of federal law.
“If a guy has a truck that adheres to all federal requirements for interstate commerce, why should he be precluded by a port entity that’s a leasehold operator from entering the port and practicing interstate commerce?” Adamski said.
He said the state trucking association is considering whether “to take appropriate action to deal with this. If that means an injunction, we will pursue that.”
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