California Court Closes Book on LA Port Litigation
August 26, 2013
After five years, the fight over the Port of Los Angeles’s concession plan has come to an end.
Last Thursday the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a permanent injunction against the three provisions of the plan that trucking interests adamantly opposed.
Judge Christina Snyder closed the book on the port’s effort to require drayage drivers to become carrier employees and on its off-street parking and placarding requirements.
These were key provisions of the 2008 concession agreement that the port instituted as part of its effort to reduce diesel emissions in and around its facilities.
ATA objected to them, winning reversal of the employment mandate in a federal appeals court, and reversal of the other two in the U.S. Supreme Court last June.
Meanwhile, the port is reporting that its Clean Trucks Program is part of a remarkable success story. It has contributed to a 79% drop in diesel particulate matter over the past seven years, the port said in a statement.
Judge Snyder’s order is pro-forma, in the sense that the legal decisions already have been made, said Curtis Whalen, executive director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference of American Trucking Associations.
“So basically it’s over,” he said. “The port has announced over the last couple of weeks that they are getting together an industry group to try to figure out what they will do with their concession program, how it will be implemented and maintained.”
He said he hopes for a cooperative relationship between drayage carriers and the port.
“My trucking companies out there are more than willing and able to work with the port as they move forward,” he said.
The concession plan has worked, he said, noting the air quality improvements the port has cited. “The litigation that was enjoining all this activity in fact didn’t undercut their program at all.”
There are two possible wrinkles, Whalen said.
ATA had challenged two other provisions of the concession plan, one requiring carriers to submit financial data and another requiring them to submit maintenance and repair information.
But the port has not enforced these, so the Supreme Court said there was nothing to decide unless the port changes its approach.
“Justice Elena Kagan (who wrote the Supreme Court decision) indicated that if the port decided to enforce them they might be ripe for more litigation,” Whalen said.
And the issue continues to resound in Congress, where two New York legislators are pushing a bill that would allow states to regulate port trucking in ways similar to the LA program.
The bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., would let a state or a local authority set up a program “reasonably related” to cleaning up pollution or easing congestion.
They said their intent is to change the law so that ports can “enact simple measures, such as the requirement that motor carriers use off-street parking, or that a truck display a placard with a phone number for the public to call regarding truck safety.”