A coalition of minority and consumer rights organizations today sought intervention by the German embassy in Washington in a truck financing plan at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The Southern California ports recently awarded a contract to Daimler Truck Financial, a German company, to handle financing for an ambitious program to replace more than 16,000 trucks with low-polluting 2007-model clean diesel trucks and liquefied natural gas-powered trucks.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Consumer Federation of California and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy called the truck financing program Òthe next generation of subprime loans.Ó
Those groups on Wednesday held a demonstration at the German embassy asking officials to facilitate a meeting between Daimler Financial and minority and labor organizations to discuss concerns over the truck financing program.
According to an NAACP spokesman, the embassy agreed to present the coalition's views to Daimler officials in Germany.
Under the portsÕ clean-trucks program, trucking companies and owner-operators can apply for grants of up to 80 percent of the cost of a new truck that meets strict emission standards. New clean-diesel trucks cost about $100,000 each and trucks powered by liquefied natural gas can cost up to $200,000.
The coalition stated that applicants would still be liable for monthly payments of $500 to $1,000 over the next seven years and would then face a balloon payment of $7,000 to $15,000 at the end of lease term.
According to the coalition, harbor truckers, who operate on thin margins, cannot afford such payments. Also, Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACPÕs Washington bureau, noted that drivers face additional costs including high-priced fuel and maintenance and repair costs for the high-tech vehicles. ÒItÕs a sustainability issue,Ó he said.
Proponents of the financing plan note that retailers and other cargo owners have agreed to pay higher trucking rates that will help owner-operators afford the lease payments. Cargo owners that contract with truckers utilizing older, non-compliant vehicles will have to pay a dirty-truck fee of $70 per-40-foot container for every load moving to and from the harbor. Shippers who pay higher trucking rates needed to finance truck lease payments may come out cheaper than paying the dirty-truck fees.
Shelton said the coalition supports an alternative plan proposed by the Teamsters union, which is attempting to organize harbor truckers, under which only licensed motor carriers with employee drivers would be allowed to shuttle containers to and from the ports.
Under that plan, financially stable motor carriers would assume the risks of truck ownership and maintenance. Also, the new trucks would reduce diesel pollution, which results in significantly higher rates of respiratory illnesses in truck corridors that often run through neighborhoods where Latinos and African-Americans reside, Shelton said.