Raising the stakes in a longstanding battle over Mayor Tom Bradley's proposed rush hour truck ban, the California Trucking Assn. on Tuesday asked the state for permission to boost shipping rates by 75% if the Los Angeles plan is implemented.
The latest salvo from the state's powerful trucking interests came as the mayor's staff is preparing to submit its plan to drastically limit truck traffic on city streets to the City Council for final adoption.
In its application for a rate increase from the state Public Utilities Commission, the trucking organization argued that the plan would actually increase truck traffic because shippers would use larger fleets of smaller trucks, which are not covered by the ban. The increased number of trucks would add to shippers' costs and add to congestion and air pollution instead of helping to reduce it, officials said.
The proposed truck ban is the linchpin of a sweeping transportation initiative announced by Bradley nearly four years ago in an effort to reduce traffic, air pollution and general city congestion. The ban is the last major element of that traffic control plan to be adopted, and Bradley and the truckers are pulling out the stops in their fight over its adoption.
Under the latest version of the proposed ordinance, 70% of all three-axle trucks would be barred from using city streets from 6 a.m to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Truckers would have to prove their vehicles met all state and federal safety requirements to be granted a license to travel in the city.
The plan would also affect businesses receiving deliveries. Any business receiving nine or more shipments a week in peak hours would be required to stay open at night to make it easier for the truckers to unload their goods. This "window of time" would be between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to Bill Bicker, Bradley's chief adviser on transportation issues.
"If the Bradley plan is adopted, we'll need to raise our prices a lot just to break even," said Tom Schumaker, executive vice president of the CTA. The 2,500-member trucking association on Tuesday applied to the Public Utilities Commission for "standby authorization" to hike its fees if the City Council adopts the controversial truck ban plan.
"It will force a lot of companies out of Los Angeles or out of business," said Schumaker. "And since trucks carry 98% of everything made, grown or sold in California, it will raise consumer prices for everyone."
Bill Chandler, a spokesman for Bradley, who is traveling in Asia on city business, called the CTA announcement "a heavy-handed scare tactic. The mayor's fair and reasonable program will benefit all the people of Los Angeles by removing a majority of large trucks from highways and streets during peak travel hours."
The organization's request for a rate hike caught some Bradley advisers by surprise.
"It's obviously just another ploy," said one adviser. The threat of dire financial consequences, he said, "will ring a chime with some (members of council) but not a majority."
Two years ago, Bradley and the truckers went head-to-head in Sacramento when the CTA unsuccessfully sought a state-imposed preemption, barring the city from legislating truck travel. Calling in political favors, Bradley was able to obtain an exemption for Los Angeles from proposed state restrictions on how truck traffic can be regulated by cities.
The proposed truck ban was tentatively approved in 1989 by the City Council, which ordered Bradley's staff to create a nuts-and-bolts plan of implementation.
Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani said the finishing touches are now being applied to the plan, paving the way for possible implementation next year.
"The two-year delay shows how unworkable it is," said Gregory deGiere, spokesman for the CTA. "It's taken them two years to work the bugs out--the whole thing is bugs."
City Councilman Nate Holden, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he also has doubts about the truck plan. He said Bradley's staff "doesn't thoroughly understand the consequences of their actions. . . . It's going to be expensive."
Fabiani said economic concerns have been addressed in the final version.
"We had to adopt provisions to protect the economy . . . but it will still significantly reduce truck traffic on city streets," said Fabiani.
Fabiani also defended the length of time it has taken to draft the plan. "We needed to draft an airtight ordinance in a complex area . . . in which it is likely we will be sued," he said.
Bruce DeBerry, deputy director of transportation for the Public Utilities Commission, said the CTA's latest request was unusual because it would only affect one area of the state.
The process of considering such a request, he said, would probably take many months. Routine filings take from three to six months to be considered, he said. The CTA request is more complicated than others, he said, because "we're not even sure if such a (truck) ban would be legal."