Seeking to distance itself from ports that want to take over regulation of harbor trucking, the Port of Long Beach notified shipper organizations this week that it will not join the lobbying efforts.
The Long Beach letter to the Waterfront Coalition and other industry organizations is the latest development in a controversial movement by port, labor and environmental organizations to use port clean-air programs as a vehicle for restructuring harbor trucking in the United States.
Two dozen groups, including shipper organizations such as the National Retail Federation, the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Industrial Transportation League, wrote to the Port of Los Angeles this week calling on the port to halt its lobbying efforts "and instead work with its customers to address the real issues that face the port today."
The ports of Los Angeles, Oakland and New York-New Jersey have sided with labor and environmental groups that want Congress to amend federal law so that ports will be exempted from the federal act that prohibits state and local entities from regulating interstate commerce.
Labor groups, especially the Teamsters union, view the proposed amendment as a way to open the door for unionization of the owner-operator truck drivers that dominate harbor trucking in the United States.
The strategy would be similar to what the Port of Los Angeles attempted to do in its clean-truck program. Los Angeles attempted to require that over the next five years harbor trucking companies phase into their operations employee drivers. Unions, by law, can not organize independent contractors but they are free to attempt to organize companies with direct employees.
Los Angeles' employee driver mandate was struck down this spring by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. The movement has now shifted to modify the federal preemption statute so that ports have some limited regulatory authority over harbor trucking.
The issue has stirred the port industry and attracted comments from industry organizations representing importers, exporters and shipping lines. The Waterfront Coalition and some two dozen other industry organizations on Monday wrote a letter to the Port of Los Angeles that was critical of that port's efforts to draw tighter limits on federal preemption.
Long Beach never included an employee-driver mandate in its clean-truck program and wants to differentiate its clean-air efforts from those of its neighbor. In an exchange of e-mails with the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents ocean carriers, Long Beach stated it is working withcustomers to seek solutions to the many competitive issues the industry faces.
"Although we remain committed to our clean-truck program, we want to reiterate that our port is not participating in the current advocacy efforts in D.C. seeking congressional amendment to the F4A or any other statute at this time," said Alex H. Cherin, managing director of trade relations and port operations in Long Beach.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.