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Court rejects ban on independent truckers under LA ports Clean Truck Program

28 September 2011

Reversing an earlier ruling of a California court, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ban on owner-operators, a key provision of the Clean Truck Program at the Port of Los Angeles. The “employee provision” of the plan—which would prevent thousands of independent truckers to service the port—was challenged by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The ruling does not affect other provisions of the Clean Truck Program, which require some 16,500 diesel trucks that service the port to be replaced by newer, cleaner models.

Under the program’s employee driver requirement, all drivers in the port would have to be employees of trucking companies by the end of 2013. The employee provision—aggressively supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor—would trigger unionization of thousands of port drivers in Los Angeles and in other US ports. The employee provision was also supported by the Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, a former labor organizer.

The port argued that independent truckers, who make up the majority of the port drivers, would not be able to afford and/or maintain the new trucks mandated by the program and that hiring drivers at higher wages would ensure stability in the drayage business. The Court, however, ruled that the port “may not obtain that stability by unilaterally inserting itself into the contractual relationship between motor carriers and drivers.”

“By throwing out the ban, the court has ensured that competition, not government regulation, will establish motor carrier's rates, routes, and services. This is a win for all involved; trucking companies; small business owner-operators; freight shippers; and ultimately average American consumers. The historic gains in air quality at the Port clearly show that the interests of clean air have been served without running independent contractors out of the Port”, said the ATA.

Over the three years of the Clean Truck Program, diesel particulate emissions from trucks at the port complex have been reduced by 80%, according to estimates by the port.

Source: ATA