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Judge upholds L.A.'s 'clean truck' initiative

A federal judge on Thursday upheld Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to require truck drivers that move through the Port of Los Angeles to comply with rules dealing with hiring, parking and truck maintenance.

In a 57-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder rejected arguments from the American Trucking Assn., which contended that Villaraigosa's "clean truck" initiative ran afoul of federal laws dealing with transportation safety and interstate commerce.

A representative of the trucking organization did not respond to a request for comment. But Villaraigosa hailed the ruling, saying it will finally allow the harbor department to proceed with the unfinished portions of his clean truck program.

"This decision is evidence that we are making real progress on growing and greening our port," he said in a statement.

Villaraigosa's five appointees on the Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted in 2008 to require that each truck driver obtain a concession agreement from the city. Those agreements included a provision, backed by the Teamsters Union, that truck drivers moving through the harbor must be employed by a trucking company.

The Port of Los Angeles has spent more than $57 million to bring new, cleaner-burning trucks into the port, much of it in the form of subsidies for companies purchasing new vehicles, said Tom Russell, general counsel for the harbor department.

Snyder concluded that the concession agreements were a "business necessity" that allowed harbor officials to protect its financial interests. In her ruling, she said that air pollution from trucks had jeopardized the port's future as a commercial enterprise, with lawsuits over emissions stalling growth at the harbor for seven years -- just as other ports were growing dramatically.

"The concession agreement helps the port manage its property and facilities as any private landlord and facilities operator would," she wrote.

Snyder also ruled that the employee provision would ensure that drivers have the available funds to maintain the environmentally friendly truck fleet -- protecting the port's financial investment in subsidized vehicles.

"We've maintained all along that the port is a business," Russell said. "And as a business, it needs to compete in a way that it deems appropriate."

Snyder issued an injunction in 2009 blocking portions of the mayor's clean truck plan from being implemented. City officials said they believe that Thursday's ruling will pave the way for that injunction to be lifted.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Comments () | Archives (6)

Wonderful news for supporters of both good jobs and clean air.

Another federal judge...another bad decision. Seems like the judiciary has more to say than the people these days. This is one issue the founding fathers were very concerned about.

This decision will be reversed as to the "provision, backed by the Teamsters Union, that truck drivers moving through the harbor must be employed by a trucking company."

That serves no rational purpose, and is instead an abuse of power to promote unions. If the supposed problem is ensuring drivers can afford a truck, then require a minimum credit score, or require them to post a bond.

Ol' Villaraigosa does have his way with the women, be it judges or news reporters!

Hopefully there will be appeals. Any rational person involved with this industry knows how outrageous and unnecessary this is all in disguise of "clean air."

Sorry Dottie, Good jobs and clean air is NOT what this is about. They are changing the way the trucking industry has operated for years. Whether a driver is an employee or an owner operator is irrelevant to clean air. They earn more money as owner operators. Unions in this day and age drive costs up and make it so there is no employee accountability. They can't be fired. If there is no consequence people as a whole won't do the right thing ie: WORK for their money.

The American Trucking Association's position is correct under the FAAA guidelines which states that states cannot impose any additional burdens on interstate transport that is not directly related to safety. I think this can be appealed and won.

This is also an example of the judges using the courts for a defacto "trial by ordeal", in which rather than ruling correctly, they rule like thay want, and expect the losing party to continue to struggle for their rights, if they want to have them.


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