Court Hears ATA's Arguments in Clean Truck Case

Court Hears ATA's Arguments in Clean Truck Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments in the American Trucking Associations’ challenge to the Port of Los Angeles’ clean-truck concession requirements this weekend, but the three-judge panel gave no indication as to how it will rule.

The 9th Circuit is expected to take the case under advisement for at least two months before issuing its ruling. This is the second time the appellate court has heard testimony in the lawsuit.

ATA is challenging the requirements that Los Angeles has placed on motor carriers intending to perform drayage work at the port. The requirement that trucking companies hire drivers as employees is the chief concern of the industry, as this requirement, if upheld, could lead to the unionization of harbor truck drivers not only in Los Angeles but at ports across the country.

By the Numbers: U.S. Intermodal Container Traffic.

The Coalition for Clean and Safe Port contends that the Port of Los Angeles clean-truck concession requirements are legally defensible and are justified because they place the burden of purchasing costly new clean trucks on motor carriers rather than on relatively low-paid owner operators.

ATA is appealing the decision last fall by U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder who found that the port can legally set certain concession requirements for harbor truckers involving the employee-driver mandate, maintenance and repair requirements and prohibition of street parking of trucks.

Judge Snyder indicated that generally a local or state entity can not regulate motor carriers engaged in interstate trucking because only the federal government has that authority. However, she ruled that the Port of Los Angeles is exempt from federal preemption law because it is a market participant – that is, the port competes for cargo and is protecting its financial interests much like a private sector company would do.

In its arguments before the 9th Circuit, ATA charged that the port meets neither the “efficient procurement” nor the “narrow scope” test under the market participant doctrine. The port does not procure drayage services. Furthermore, the grants it provided to some motor carriers to purchase clean trucks are not an act of business, ATA argued.

“An 11 percent grant only on 35 percent of all clean trucks cannot justify POLA’s economic regulation of 100 percent of the drayage trucking industry,” ATA argued.

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said the clean-truck program has successfully eliminated most of the dirty trucks from the harbor and the concession requirements are “critical to sustaining a clean, safe and secure trucking system into the future.”

The coalition, which represents the Teamsters union and environmental organizations, said the group looks forward to a speedy and favorable decision from the 9th Circuit. “The facts, the law and common sense are on our side,” said TJ Michels, spokeswoman for the group.

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.