ATA Files Suit to Block L.A. and Long Beach Ports Concession Plans

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), with the support of its Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference (IMCC), filed suit in the U.S. District Court in California challenging the port "Concession Plans" as approved by the Cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their harbor commissions. The plans will limit access to the ports to only those trucking companies that have entered into concession contracts approved by the port program administrator.

The concession plans impose a broad range of operational requirements that create a regulatory environment very similar to state intrastate economic regulation. The ports have acknowledged that these intrusive regulatory systems will result in far fewer trucking companies being able to service the ports, reducing competition.

"We firmly believe that these concession programs unlawfully re-regulate the port trucking industry to the detriment of motor carriers, shippers, and the businesses and consumers that depend on the products that are handled at those ports," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "We are particularly concerned with the Port of Los Angeles' concession requirement that will lead to a complete ban of the use of independent contractor/owner operator drivers in servicing that port's operations within five years. That requirement, which has nothing to do with the clean air goals of the ports' Clean Truck Program, threatens a well-established trucking industry operational practice that provides efficiencies and the flexibility needed for the trucking industry to effectively serve our customers."

Graves emphasized that the litigation is not aimed at and should not interfere with the ports' clean air efforts. "Despite the additional costs that our industry will incur, we strongly support the ports' efforts to reduce truck emissions and our lawsuit does not challenge any aspect of those efforts," Graves said.

"We are challenging only the intrusive and unnecessary regulatory structure being created under the Concession Plans," IMCC Executive Director Curtis Whalen said. "As Congress recognized when it created price, routes, and services preemption, regulatory schemes like the Concession Plans burden interstate commerce and are bad for the American economy."

In its filing, ATA specifically asserts that the ports' actions violate the federal statutory provision (49 U.S.C. § 14501) which prohibits states or their political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing a legal requirement that is "related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier." The filing points to a host of regulatory requirements (e.g. submission of truck-maintenance, safety and parking plans; equipment marking and tracking; financial oversight; routing mandates; and periodic reviews and audits) that will dramatically affect a motor carrier's operations at the ports in terms of price, routes, and services.

The filing also relies heavily on the United States Supreme Court's recent unanimous ruling interpreting that federal preemption provision. Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Ass'n, 128 S.Ct. 989, 995 (2008). Citing language in that case, the trucking industry papers argue that laws like the Concession Plans that substitute "governmental commands for 'competitive market forces' in determining the services that a motor carrier will provide" are preempted.

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