Crime & Justice

Appeals court upholds LA port's Clean Trucks contract

The Port of Los Angeles' Clean Trucks program withstood a legal challenge today when an appeals court refused to throw out concession agreements with trucking companies, despite opposition from some drivers.

The American Trucking Association claimed the concession agreements violate federal deregulation laws by requiring drivers to work for trucking companies as opposed to remaining self-employed.

The ATA wanted all the concession agreements to be declared illegal.

But in an opinion issued today, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the port to continue enforcing provisions of the concession agreements that pertain to motor vehicle safety — for example, a requirement that trucking companies be licensed motor carriers in good

The justices acknowledged flaws in the concession agreements but said those provisions may be "severed'' without affecting the whole contract.

"The provisions in the concession agreements that are not preempted by (federal laws) are distinctly separated by topic from the provisions which are preempted,'' the ruling states. "Omitting the preempted provisions from the concession agreements does not require the district court to `examine and rewrite most of the statute.'''

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in Washington D.C. on a lobbying trip, issued a statement praising the ruling.

"The concession agreements with hundreds of trucking companies has helped put more than 6,000 clean trucks on the roads around the port, reducing port truck emissions by at least 70 percent,'' he said. "We are hopeful that the trial court will uphold the full concession agreement to provide full
accountability and sustainability of the Clean Trucks program in the future.''

Councilwoman Janice Hahn called it "a step in the right direction, but it's still not enough.''

"In order to succeed in reducing pollution and improving security at the port in the long-term, we need to ensure that trucking companies, and not the drivers, are held accountable for operating and maintaining their trucks,'' she said.

A federal judge in Los Angeles will hear testimony from port officials and from the ATA on the lawsuit tomorrow. If the judge does not dismiss the case, it will be heard on its merits March 16.

The Clean Trucks program, launched in October 2008, requires all big rigs entering the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to meet 2007 federal Environmental Protection Agency standards by 2012.

While the Port of Long Beach allows drivers to remain self-employed, the Port of Los Angeles requires that drivers work for trucking companies.