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100-truck convoy planned on Harbor Freeway this morning

The event is organized by a group that backs the L.A. and Long Beach ports' proposal to cut diesel pollution.

June 27, 2007|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

Prepare for congestion -- even more than usual -- on the Harbor Freeway this morning.

Beginning at 8 a.m., a convoy of 100 diesel trucks plans to travel southbound in one lane of the freeway from South Los Angeles near Exposition Park, and then cross the Vincent Thomas Bridge to the Port of Long Beach, a trip expected to take about two hours. The convoy will be led by a hearse, which symbolizes premature deaths caused by pollution emitted at the port.

"It could cause traffic headaches. It's not often you see 100 trucks going down the road nose to tail," said Officer Richard Langsdale of the California Highway Patrol.

The convoy is being organized by the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, a group that includes truck drivers and environmental, health, labor and community groups in southern Los Angeles County. The group supports a draft plan by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to slash diesel pollution from trucks by 80% in five years.

Some truck drivers have said they support the measure, arguing that they breathe in the pollution, too, but cannot afford to resolve the problem on their own. State air quality and health experts have linked 2,400 premature deaths a year to noxious emissions produced by the ports, which reported an average 10% increase in trade in 2006.

The plan would also increase drivers' income by requiring trucking companies to hire their truckers as employees, rather than pay them at a lower rate as independent contractors.

Representatives of trucking companies have opposed the plan, saying they would face additional costs, which could drive small companies out of business. They also have said that the ports' plan would illegally supersede interstate commerce laws.

Organizers said they chose the route because many truck drivers live in South Los Angeles. They will wind up at a closed-door meeting at the Port of Long Beach, where port officials will hear comments about its proposal. Port officials are expected to vote on the plan this summer.

"The intent is to get the voices of the drivers heard," said Patricia Castellanos, co-chairwoman of the coalition. "These drivers don't have the luxury of paying for high-priced consultants."

Langsdale of the CHP said it is illegal for drivers to purposely go slower than the flow of traffic. But it is not illegal to drive the speed limit for big rigs on the freeway -- 55 mph.

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