U.S. Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) has released a "Dear Colleague" letter last week, expressing his opposition to a campaign by the Teamsters to change federal transportation law in an effort to give ports the authority to ban owner-operators
from their harbors.

The Teamsters, along with several ports around the country, have urged Congress to change the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), which prohibits states from enacting and enforcing laws that are "related to" motor carrier prices, routes, or services in order to maximize competitive forces in the trucking industry. These ports wish to have the authority to regulate trucking operations at the ports, such as security, congestion and the environment.

According to the American Trucking Associations, which has fought the Port of Los Angeles on its attempt to ban owner-operators, the Teamsters' effort to push for an employee-based port system is a way for the union to organize port drayage truck drivers.

"Compliance with air quality standards should be determined on a truck by truck basis without regard to the employee or ownership status of the driver of that truck," Rep. Miller said in his letter.

"Industry stakeholders, including many small businesses, have shown that they are taking a proactive approach to meeting environmental goals as they have made significant investments in clean equipment," he said. "It is important that we do not get distracted by unnecessary provisions and mandates that are not related to environmental goals and could have long term, negative consequences on interstate commerce."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers also oppose any change to the FAAAA. In their letters circulated on Capitol Hill, the organizations say ports already have the ability to implement environmental programs that clean the air. "These (proposed changes) are specifically designed to eliminate competition from small independent businesses in favor of companies that the Teamsters believe could be more easily organized," the letter said.

The American Association of Port Authorities also refused to endorse the Port of Los Angeles position on amending the FAAAA. Instead the Association's Legislative Policy Council passed a resolution stating that ports already have sufficient latitude to ban old, polluting trucks.

The Clean and Sustainable Transportation Coalition, made up of 31 groups that represent exporters, importers and the logistics industries and service providers that support them, also opposes the union effort to change the FAAAA. "These changes, if enacted, could unfairly force out of the industry many hard working small businesses responsible for moving much of the nation's international commerce," said a letter signed by the Coalition.

According to the ATA, a letter written by Teamsters' supporters includes several false claims from the union.

"In just one year, the program replaced 6,000 older trucks with clean diesel and alternative energy vehicles … which will reduce diesel particulate pollution by an estimated 70 percent," the Teamster letter said. ATA says this is true, but shows that the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program is cleaning the air without the owner-operator ban.