A challenge to the Port of Los Angeles concession requirements for motor carriers moved a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court as the court invited the Office of the Solicitor General to weigh in on the case.
The American Trucking Associations and the port each won a partial victory last year when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled several of the concession requirements in the port’s clean-trucks program were legal but struck down the most controversial requirement, which would have banned independent contractor drivers.
The Teamsters union, which is attempting to organize drayage truck drivers at ports nationwide, supported the independent contractor ban. The Port of Los Angeles was attempting to limit drayage truck drivers to being direct employees of trucking companies. This would have made it legal for the Teamsters to attempt to organize the drivers.
Although the ATA won on the independent contractor ban issue, the association appealed the 9th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court because it feared a dangerous precedent would be set by allowing a port to establish any requirements affecting a motor carrier’s rates, routes or services.
The concession requirements the 9th Circuit accepted included restrictions on off-street parking, proof of financial responsibility for motor carriers and maintenance and repair requirements.
The Supreme Court had three options for addressing the ATA’s petition for review, said Curtis Whalen, executive director of the ATA’s intermodal conference. The court could have accepted the petition or it could have rejected the petition for review. The court chose a third option, which was to seek an opinion from the U.S. Solicitor General.
Early in the litigation, Whalen noted, the United States filed an amicus brief in which it backed the ATA’s position that the concession requirements violate federal pre-emption law.
The ATA considers the Supreme Court’s decision to seek an opinion from the Solicitor General as a positive development. Whalen said the court accepts only 2 percent of the petitions filed.