Truckers and retailers reacted with nearly undisguised glee over a ruling yesterday by a federal appeals court panel that prevented the Port of Los Angeles from banning truck owner-operators from serving the port's terminals under the port's "Clean Trucks" program.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on the grounds that the provision was primarily based on a desire to impact wages for truck drivers rather than to administer the Clean Trucks program.
The appellate court ruling overturns a decision last year by Federal District Court Judge Christina Snyder that the port could enforce the ban. Judge Snyder ruled the port could act as a proprietary agency and manage its operations like a landlord.
In a statement issued late yesterday, Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said the appellate court ruling has "upheld the rights of trucking companies to structure their business to maximize efficiency and productivity." Graves said the port's plan was "never about clean air," but in reality was focused on "promoting special interests of a few well-connected labor groups."
ATA has long argued that the port's plan, supported by organized truck labor, was to impose labor controls at the facility by forcing owner-operators that provide drayage services to become full-time employees, and thus drive up wage rates and limit the operating flexibility of shippers and truckers.
Kelly Kolb, vice president of global supply chain policy for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), said the ruling blocks the port's attempt to "dictate the relationship between shippers and their drayage operators." Kolb said the mandate would have driven thousands of owner-operators off the port's grounds, and that no appreciable progress toward achieving the goals of the Clean Trucks program would have resulted.
In a brief statement, port officials said the truck ban was the only part of the agency's broad "concession agreement" rejected by the panel. Indeed, the appeals court agreed that the port should be allowed to require trucking companies to comply with off-street parking limits, maintenance provisions, and a mandate to show financial capability. Port officials have yet to decide whether to file an appeal.
The Port of Los Angeles and the trucking industry have been in a legal battle over the Clean Trucks plan since it was unveiled in October of 2008. The program required all rigs entering the port to meet 2007 federal emissions standards by 2012, among other restrictions.
Port officials said their goal was to cut truck emissions standards in the next two years. Opponents argued that other U.S. ports have managed to curb emissions and improve air quality without levying a ban on certain vehicles and businesses.
ATA also alleged that the port wanted to grant itself discretion to decide which federally qualified operators should serve the port, an illegal intrusion of a local body in the functions of interstate commerce.