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Long Beach port settles truckers suit over clean air plan

The port agreed to remove all requirements not directly related to the push to allow only newer, less-polluting trucks at the complex, including a demand that trucking firms file financial reports.

October 21, 2009|Ronald D. White

The Port of Long Beach has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Assn. over disputed elements of a plan to clean up the air around the nation's busiest seaport complex.

Long Beach officials have agreed to strip their plan of all requirements that are not directly tied to the goal of getting cleaner trucks on the road, including a demand that trucking companies file financial reports.

Under the change, trucking companies would agree to comply with environmental, safety and security requirements. They would need to register their trucks with the port and equip them with radio frequency identification tags.

Still in place is a ban on all 1988 and older trucks from the ports. As of January, the ports will allow only 2004-or-later trucks. A year into the program, both ports have already beaten their most optimistic projections for new trucks and reduced emissions.

"This is a critical milestone for the program, reaching consensus with an important industry partner," said Nick Sramek, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.

ATA President and Chief Executive Bill Graves said, "We never disagreed with [Long Beach's] objectives, only with certain provisions of the concession agreement which we believed were unnecessary. "

In settling the case, Long Beach has distanced itself from the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, which is also being sued by the trucking association.

As part of its own clean air plan, the L.A. port included several elements that affect the operations of the trucking companies that serve the port, including the requirement that all drivers must be employees of logistics companies. This would eliminate independent truckers at the port by 2013.

The ATA and many of the nation's biggest retailers have argued that Los Angeles' plan would allow the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to unionize drivers in a bid to gain more clout at the nation's seaports.

Los Angeles has gained other big-city port allies and is taking its fight to a national stage.

On Sunday, mayors Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., joined Ron Dellums of Oakland in supporting Los Angeles' version of the clean truck program.

"Today, I am calling on Congress to support legislation that will empower ports to implement the L.A. Clean Truck Program, an innovative initiative that will create good, green jobs and improve the quality of the air that New Yorkers breathe," Bloomberg said.

The agreement between Long Beach and the 37,000-member ATA must still be approved by a federal judge.


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