The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles want to clean up the air, so what did they do? They came up with a little plan that will kill off perhaps a thousand or more small trucking companies.

Nice work.

Of course, they're rushing this through. They came out with a plan in April without input from the trucking industry the one to be exterminated and they'll vote on it next month, although they haven't bothered to say exactly when.

It always inspires confidence when things are done hurried and in secret. And it just so happens that truckers who have been independent owner-operators will be forced forced! to become employees of trucking companies if they want to continue going to the ports. And as employees, they can join the Teamsters union. It just so happens that the Teamsters offered up a clean-air plan for port authorities to consider. But James Hankla, the Long Beach Harbor Commission president and one of the committee members who rubber stamped the Teamsters plan... oops, I mean, who carefully crafted their own plan independent of the Teamsters said, "This was not a plot."

Gosh, no. Who would think that?

In case you missed it, the two port commissions, in a joint effort, plan to clean up the dirty air at the ports by replacing the 16,000 or so trucks that now service the ports with cleaner-burning trucks. Eventually, only the new trucks will be allowed in the ports. Of course, this is very expensive $1.2 billion or so and the ports will subsidize the purchase of the new trucks. How they'll actually pay for all of that is still unclear (did someone say "taxpayers"?), but the ports claim that since they'll have first liens on the trucks, they will require the new trucks be in big fleets owned by a few approved companies and the drivers be employees.

The new system will wipe out the current system, in which 1,300 or so small trucking companies contract with 16,000 or so independent owner-operators.

Why do the new trucks need to go to only a few, big companies? Well, as Hankla explained, they can't have "individual relationships with 16,000 truck drivers."

Well, of course not. Just think of that immense number. Sixteen thousand. Why, I bet no computer's ever been built that can keep track of 16,000 things.

To be fair, we don't actually know how similar the final plan is to the Teamsters proposed plan. We could say if we could see the Teamsters plan, but they wouldn't provide a copy to the Business Journal. Yeah, sure, don't worry; this is all transparent and above board.

And to be fair, there's no reason to believe this is a plot. I mean the fact that the Teamsters have teamed up with the environmentalists and the immigrant-rights groups to push the same plan would not lead you to believe that, right? And neither would the fact that the Teamsters have been making what one official called a "very, very serious" effort to organize truckers there, right? And neither would the fact that the trucking companies and other companies that work at the ports have been more or less locked out of helping to form the plan, right?

Yes, this is all quite honorable. Wipe out a thousand or so businesses without giving them much voice. Pay out more than a billion dollars of other people's money. Make sure the Teamsters come out ahead. Don't let people see much of the process.

Yeah. Nice work, indeed.

Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at .

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