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Ports of Los Angeles

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container ports in the U.S. have adopted strict rules to, in the words of the Mayor of Los Angeles, remove 16,000 dirty diesel trucks from the road and reduce truck-related pollution by 80%.  The rules prohibit owner operator-driven trucks from obtaining licenses to enter the ports.  Instead, a limited number of  port licenses have been issued to large trucking companies that must utilize company drivers and the newest, lowest emission trucks to serve the ports.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) sued the Port of Los Angeles to prevent it from carrying out a plan.  The FMC challenged the regulations in court as an unreasonable restraint on competition that would hurt independent truckers, reduce the capacity available to the lines and drive up costs.  Although the FMC is supporting its case with testimony from two economists, the court so far has not been impressed with the Commissions’ arguments.  The decision, by FMC, to go to court was 2 –1 and the dissenting Commissioner accused the others of bowing to political pressure from the independent truckers.

The Mayor of Los Angeles was one of President Obama’s strongest supporters, so the current Administration has no enthusiasm for this lawsuit which was brought in the waning days of the Bush Administration.  Another, private case was brought by the American Trucking Associations against the port in California Federal Court, but that is likely to suffer the same fate as the FMC’s case.  The ports have recently begun collecting an additional $35 per TEU to fund the clean truck program.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT  In late September, trucking companies won a major court victory against the State of California and Attorney General Jerry Brown (former Governor).  The State was attempting to force the Port to stop using independent contractor drivers for drayage and to use employee drivers instead.
Attorney General Brown filed a civil action against Pac Anchor Transportation, Inc. and the owner, Alfredo Barajas.  In the case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White found that a federal law, which protects motor carriers from state regulation, preempts any claims against motor carriers under California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The law, a part of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) prohibits the states from enacting laws that regulate motor carrier routes, pricing or services in order to maximize the maximize the competitive forces in the trucking industry.The court decision represents the second time in 2009 the State of California has received a serious blow to its efforts to mandate trucking companies to eliminate independent contractors and switch to employee drivers. 

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