Supreme Court to Hear Challenge of LA Ports’ Clean Trucks Program

American Trucking Associations Gamino and AssociatesThe U.S. Supreme Court will hear the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) suit against the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks Program, with a ruling expected by July.

The case has been making its way through the court system ever since the program went into effect more than four years ago. ATA challenged the program, arguing that federal law prohibits the locally run port from making rules that impede interstate commerce.

The Clean Truck Program, set up in 2008, established criteria for providers of drayage services at the Port, including a requirement to commit to using only employee drivers, rather than the independent contractors typically working the ports, by 2013 in a phased-in schedule. The plan would allow the port to hold those companies accountable for maintaining trucks and employing properly credentialed drivers.

The Port of Long Beach had a similar program that did not include the owner-operator ban. The ATA later settled its suit with Long Beach.

Although U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles originally granted ATA’s request for a preliminary injunction against certain concessions in the plan, in 2010, she rejected the trucking industry’s challenge. Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed her decision and upheld all the regulations — except the rule restricting independent contractors.

“A container port like the Port of Los Angeles is akin to a publicly managed transportation infrastructure, like a highway or a bridge,” U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. told the justices in a brief filed in November, reports the LA Times. He said it could pose a problem at ports and other facilities across the nation if cities were free to impose restrictions on truckers who operate in publicly owned facilities.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also urged the court to hear the case, supporting the ATA’s view.

Environmental groups, however, accuse the trucking industry of trying to weaken a program that delivers environmental and public health benefits.

This continues to be a hard-fought battle against an industry clinging to its polluting practices, said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney with NRDC. The clean truck program at the Port of LA has dramatically reduced harmful air pollution from port trucking, but it wont stay that way unless trucking companies step up and shoulder the necessary costs of upkeep and care. The Ports clean truck program requires just that.

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