Transportation interests are predicting economic disaster for truckers if the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach go ahead with a proposed "Clean Air Action Plan" (CAAP). The goal of the plan may be laudatory, industry representatives say, but it will spell doom for already-strapped local truckers, while doing little to clean up the air. At the recent annual conference of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) in San Francisco, two spokespersons for ocean shippers and motor carriers squared off against an official from the Port of Los Angeles to make their point. Port marketing manager Marcel van Dijk outlined the basics of the plan, which would require all drayage providers in Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors to replace older vehicles with new models that pollute less, over a period of five years. At the same time, the 1,300 short-haul truckers that haul containers to and from the docks would be required to work for companies that are granted operating concessions by the ports, effectively putting an end to the use of owner-operators for that business. To pay for the vehicle-replacement program, the CAAP would combine state and taxpayer funds with a fee of between $34 and $54 per trip, imposed on authorized truck operators over the five years. The goal is to slash pollution from harbor trucks by more than 80 percent within that time. Van Dijk said that between 20 and 25 percent of pollution in the Los Angeles Basin is the result of port activities, although ship emissions are greater than those of trucks.
Karen Vellutini, vice president of sales and marketing with Devine Intermodal, argued that the CAAP violates multiple laws, including the Ocean Shipping and Motor Carrier acts, interferes with interstate commerce and is preempted by federal regulation. From a trucking industry standpoint, she said, the plan would force massive consolidation that would reduce competition and employment in the harbor area. She spoke in favor of an alternative pollution-reduction plan by the California Trucking Association, one that doesn't force owner-operators to become employees of large trucking concerns. That idea, CAAP opponents say, has nothing to do with reducing pollution in the first place. John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, charged that this aspect of the plan is part of a nationwide power grab by the Teamsters, because the companies granted concessions by the ports would presumably be union operations. He claimed that the Teamsters are seeking to impose similar rules on drayage operators at the ports of Oakland, Seattle and Miami, among other places. In addition, McLaurin said, many of the details of the plan, including the precise amount of the fee and how it would be imposed, remain unclear. Comments heard at the AgTC meeting suggest that the controversy will be prolonged. The two Southern California ports want to kick off the CAAP on Jan. 1, 2008, but opponents have vowed to fight it in court, making delays in implementation likely. In the meantime, truckers in other harbor areas are holding their breath, waiting to see whether the CAAP is the harbinger of radical change in the way that containers are drayed at ports around the nation.
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