Agricultural exporters hailed the Port of Seattle’s clean-truck program for reducing pollution without imposing fees on cargo interests, and exporters urged the port commission to withhold support for any movement that seeks to regulate harbor trucking.
The port commission is scheduled next Tuesday to receive an update on Seattle’s clean-truck program that will gradually ban old, polluting trucks from the harbor. Unlike the Los Angeles-Long Beach program that took effect on Oct. 1, 2008, the Seattle clean-truck plan does not call for fees on non-compliant trucks.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, in a letter to the Port of Seattle Commission, said any port action that increases the cost of transportation harms the competitiveness of U.S. exports.
AgTC, which represents agricultural exporters across the nation, noted that some ports have called recently for an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. The FAAAA upholds federal government preemption authority over state and local entities in matters involving interstate commerce.
In recent weeks, the ports of Los Angeles, Oakland and New York-New Jersey have announced support for the concept of giving ports limited regulatory authority over harbor trucking in their regions.
The Teamsters union, which has been attempting to organize harbor truck drivers at U.S. container ports, is promoting an FAAAA amendment that would ultimately allow ports to require that drivers be hired as employees of harbor trucking companies. The Port of Los Angeles had an employee-driver mandate in its clean-truck program, but it was struck down in court as a violation of the FAAAA.
Most harbor truck drivers are independent owner-operators. Unions are prohibited from organizing independent contractors, but they are free to attempt to organize employee drivers.
The AgTC letter to the Port of Seattle Commission noted that West Coast ports compete for cargo with U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports as well as with the Port of Prince Rupert, Canada.
Any measure that increases the cost of transportation, including a clean-truck fee or a change in federal law that could increase the cost of harbor trucking, could cause a diversion of agricultural exports to other ports.
“Thus, adopting or endorsing any measure (such as the so-called FAAAA amendment) that would dramatically increase the cost of shipping through West Coast ports would constitute the proverbial ‘shooting oneself in the foot,’” said Peter Friedmann, AgTC executive director.
Friedmann said the Port of Seattle recognizes that exports, and especially agricultural products, are price-sensitive, and the port commission demonstrated its awareness in keeping container fees out of its clean-truck program.
Friedmann urged the commission to demonstrate a similar attitude on the FAAAA issue and to conclude that the status of a harbor truck driver has nothing to do with truck emissions.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.