Oral Arguments in ATA Clean-Trucks Challenge Likely in April

Oral Arguments in ATA Clean-Trucks Challenge Likely in April

The U.S. Supreme Court will move quickly to hear the American Trucking Associations’ appeal of an appellate court’s decision upholding certain provisions in the Port of Los Angeles clean-truck case, with oral arguments likely to take place in April and a decision to be reached by June.

Curtis Whalen, executive director of ATA’s intermodal conference, said Monday the deadline for the trucking association to file its opening brief is Feb. 25. The Port of Los Angeles has until March 17 to file its opposition brief. The reply brief deadline will be in mid-April, with oral arguments likely to be held by the fourth week in April. The Supreme Court’s decision will probably be handed down sometime in June, Whalen said.

The nation’s top court on Friday disregarded the advice of the U.S. Solicitor General’s office and decided to hear the ATA’s appeal.

ATA is asking the Supreme Court to review the 2011 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upholding certain requirements the Port of Los Angeles clean-truck program establishes for drayage companies that are involved in port services.

Those concession requirements include showing proof of financial responsibility, abiding by rules for off-street parking of trucks and the use of placards with specified information on port trucks.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling was actually a victory for the harbor trucking industry as it struck down a key provision in the port’s clean-truck program mandating the use of employee drivers. That provision, which was supported by the Teamsters union, would have made it easier for unions to organize an industry that today is dominated by independent contractor drivers.

Nevertheless, ATA charged that the 9th Circuit went too far in allowing other provisions to stand. ATA President and CEO Bill Graves on Monday repeated the industry’s position.

“ATA has challenged these provisions because we believe they are incompatible with Congress’ command that state and local governments may not regulate motor carrier decisions relating to prices, routes and services,” he said.

Port of Los Angeles attorneys said the ability of the port to regulate certain activities is crucial to the success of the clean-truck program, which has resulted in a 90 percent reduction in diesel emissions since the baseline year of 2005.

“The two issues that the Supreme Court agreed to hear are whether the port’s clean-truck program is not preempted because the port is a market participant, and whether the port can limit access to port property to be conditioned on compliance with the clean-truck program,” the attorneys stated. The success of the port in reducing diesel emissions is consistent with its commercial business interests, they stated.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him at twitter.com/billmongelluzzo.