Harbor truckers plan to meet with port and terminal officials next week to iron out questions about plans to require radio-frequency identification tags on trucks entering New York-New Jersey marine terminals.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Sustainable Terminal Services, a consortium of terminal operators, agreed last September to work together on a program to require RFID tags on trucks.
The Department of Homeland Security is funding half of the $1.6 million cost of launching the RFID program. The port authority has touted the tags as a way to improve security and efficiency, and to ensure compliance with the port’s clean trucks program.
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said the tags should not be used to enforce the clean trucks program’s ban on trucks with engines built in 1993 or earlier.
The port authority last year proposed requiring trucks to display stickers showing compliance with the port’s clean trucks program. After the association objected, the port authority made the stickers voluntary.
Toth said RFID tags are the equivalent of stickers, and that using them to enforce the clean-trucks plan’s ban on trucks with pre-1993 engines would illegally pre-empt federal regulation of rates, routes and services.
Bethann Rooney, the port authority’s security manager, told a New Jersey Motor Truck Association forum last week that the port authority is confident the RFID tag requirement meets legal requirements.
“The terminal operators are requiring the placement of the tags, not the port authority,” she said. “The port authority is requiring the terminal operators to ensure that trucks are authorized to do business. The terminal operators are choosing to use RFID to do that.”
She said Global Terminals at Bayonne, N.J., is scheduled to start reading RFID tags at its gates on May 6, and that all terminals will require the tags after July 15.
“If you do not have a tag, it’s a red light and you will be routed out of the terminal,” she said.
Terminal operators hope to use the RFID tags to capture information about incoming trucks, and to use it to improve the flow of traffic through their facilities.
Truckers have no objection to the RFID tags’ security and efficiency aspects, but don’t want the tags used to deny access to older trucks. They also want RFID data on truck queueing and turn times at terminals to be shared with motor carriers.
The cellphone-sized tags are clamped to the driver’s mirror on trucks. Some truckers have complained the mounting clamps will be susceptible to damage or tampering, but Rooney said they’ve been used successfully on the West Coast.
Although the tags initially will be provided free, their $90 replacement cost is another issue for truckers. Rooney said the tags should last for several years, about as long as an EZ-Pass toll transponder.
Jeff Bader, president of Global Carriers and of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, said the Bi-State group’s members have the same concerns as the New Jersey Motor Truck Association.
Bader said trucking officials have been discussing those concerns with port authority and terminal representatives, and plan additional meetings.
“We hope something can be worked out within the next week,” he said.
In the meantime, the Bi-State group is urging members to sign up for the RFID tags, Bader said.