The port and city of Los Angeles rested their case after testimony Wednesday in the clean-trucks suit brought by the American Trucking Associations. Judge Christina A. Snyder will take a port tour on Thursday. She instructed the attorneys for both sides to file their concluding briefs by May 14. She will study the briefs and then issue her ruling.
The Port of Los Angeles subsidized the purchase of about 2,800 new trucks since its clean-truck program was approved in March of 2008, a financial commitment that port attorneys say proves Los Angeles is a market participant.
"If subsidizing one-third of the trucks in the drayage fleet is not market participation, I don't know what is," port attorney Thomas Russell said in an interview on the concluding day of testimony in the case of the American Trucking Associations vs. the City of Los Angeles et al.
On the final day of testimony in the trial that began more than a week ago, attorneys for the port worked to build a case that Los Angeles should be exempted from federal preemption law that prohibits state and local entities from regulating motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce.
Federal preemption law allows state or local entities to issue regulations affecting motor carrier operations if they are "market participants" and are therefore attempting to protect their financial investments and assets. Proving market participation can be tricky, however.
Geraldine Knatz, the port's executive director, said Los Angeles since early 2008 spent about $58.7 million on various subsidy programs to help motor carriers buy 2,800 new trucks that meet or exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions standards for 2007 model trucks.
The new clean-diesel and liquefied natural gas trucks equate to about one-third of the current harbor drayage fleet, she said.
ATA attorney Robert Digges noted, however, that new trucks can cost up to $180,000 each, and the port subsidies were generally around $20,000 per vehicle. Motor carriers in aggregate invested about $600 million of their own money to purchase new trucks, he said.
Digges also noted that the port is getting reimbursed for some of its investments through the collection of fees on trucks that do not meet the 2007-model threshold of the EPA. Knatz said she does not know what percentage of the port's $58.7 million investment will be reimbursed, but she said it is certain the fees won't cover the full amount.
In an interview, Digges said the market participation exemption to federal preemption law is a "very narrow doctrine." He noted that the port does not have its own drayage fleet, which could make proving the exemption difficult.
In earlier testimony Wednesday, the port called two witnesses who testified that the Los Angeles concession requirements give the port a tool for enforcing safety and security in the harbor drayage fleet. Federal preemption law also has an exemption for state and local entities in matters relating to motor carrier safety.
ATA attorneys noted that many of the port's concession requirements relating to safety and security duplicate existing federal or state law, such as the requirement that drivers hold a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.