Court Allows LA Clean-Truck Program

Court Allows LA Clean-Truck Program

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Wednesday rejected a claim by the American Trucking Associations that the Port of Los Angeles' motor carrier concession requirements should be declared illegal in their entirety.

The appellate court's ruling means Los Angeles can continue to require that harbor drayage companies abide by certain regulations in the port's clean-truck program that pertain to motor carrier safety.

ATA's main argument regarding the Port of Los Angeles clean-truck concession requirements is not affected by the ruling. Los Angeles can not require the phase-in of employee drivers by harbor drayage companies. That requirement, which is supported by labor and environmental interests, would make it easier for unions to organize harbor truck drivers.

The 9th Circuit, as well as the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, ruled last year that the authority of state and local entities over the rates, routes and services of motor carriers is preempted by a federal law known as the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act.

The district and appellate courts determined that the Los Angeles concession requirement concerning mandatory use of employee drivers most likely violates the federal preemption law.

Wednesday's decision by the 9th Circuit involves additional requirements in the Los Angeles concession agreements with motor carriers involving safety. For example, the concession agreement requires that harbor drayage companies be licensed motor carriers in good standing, that they use only permitted trucks, that each motor carrier has a maintenance program, and so forth.

The 9th Circuit stated that those and similar requirements fall under the motor carrier safety exemption to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act and therefore can be enforced.

ATA had appealed an earlier district court ruling on this issue. ATA maintained that the Los Angeles concession program, in its entirety, should be denied. The 9th Circuit on Wednesday determined that the port can enforce provisions responsive to safety concerns, and the appellate court therefore denied the ATA's request for preliminary injunctive relief.

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said she is pleased by the court's ruling, which will allow the Los Angeles clean-truck model "to be the driving force of change in San Pedro Bay."

Knatz was alluding to the clean-truck plan at the neighboring Port of Long Beach, which is based not on a concession model but a registration agreement that differs from the Los Angeles model in certain key provisions.

Curtis Whalen, executive director of ATA's intermodal conference, said the 9th Circuit ruling simply maintains the status quo. Los Angeles can not require that motor carriers use employee drivers, but the port can continue to enforce safety provisions in its clean-truck plan.

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday will hear testimony from Los Angeles and from the ATA seeking a summary judgment in the lawsuit. If the judge does not grant a summary judgment, the case is scheduled to be heard on its merits in March.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com.