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Inspecting of Truck Trailers Criticized

October 25, 2003|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

Concerns about the highway dangers posed by shipper-owned truck trailers were voiced Friday as port workers and union leaders lambasted what they called a faulty system of screening the trailers.

"Every day, unsafe chassis are breaking apart on our roads and highways," said Louis Giampapa, president of Local 848 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

At a press conference at the Port of Los Angeles, the unions supported pending federal legislation requiring ocean shipping companies to meet more stringent standards while inspecting truck chassis, the trailers that haul heavy cargo containers.

Truck chassis typically are owned by shippers, who provide them to the truckers who haul freight from the ports to inland rail yards, warehouses and stores. Shippers are required to perform regular chassis inspections. But those inspections are so flawed that unsafe chassis are carrying 80,000-pound loads along the Los Angeles freeways, say the Teamsters and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which organized the Friday event.

A group representing the shipping companies disagreed strongly, saying the union claim was unfounded and was linked to the Teamsters' current organizing drive among truckers who haul containers nationwide.

"It is needlessly and inaccurately creating fear among the motoring public when that fear is entirely unwarranted," John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn., said in a statement. He cited California Highway Patrol statistics showing that mechanical failures cause fewer than 1% of truck-at-fault collisions.

A bill pending in Congress would increase the shipping companies' responsibility for inspecting and repairing chassis.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn plans to introduce a measure to the council next week supporting that bill, a Hahn spokeswoman said.

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