A trucking industry trade group is urging the Federal Maritime Commission to review a controversial program that would replace virtually all 16,000 short-haul trucks serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, a division of the American Trucking Association, asked the commission in a letter this week to consider changes to the plan, which truckers fear will drive up costs and force many trucking companies out of business.

"Industry attempts to present and have our concerns considered appear to us to date to have fallen on deaf ears," the group said in the Oct. 2 letter. "The port would have you believe that the details of the program are still very much under discussion and development: i.e., it is a work in progress. Based on the public record to date, we disagree."

As part of a broader clean air plan, the ports in April released a proposal that would require independent owner-operators to hire employee drivers and replace or retrofit all of the trucks so they meet 2007 emissions standards. The plan is expected to reduce truck emissions by 80 percent.

The proposal has generated strong opposition from the trucking and shipping industries. Last week, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and the National Industrial Transportation League voiced similar concerns to the maritime commission. It's unclear how much authority the agency would have to halt the program, though the agency does have authority to ensure that local port practices do not interfere with international shipping.

Separately, the ports announced on Thursday that they will hold an informational workshop Oct. 12 to hear public comment on the program from trucking, environmental and logistics industry experts. It will be the first joint meeting with all ten harbor commissioners from the two ports since they first approved the Clean Air Action Plan last year.

"This workshop will help us get to a place where we are comfortable that the plan we will ultimately approve is the best for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach," said Los Angeles Harbor Commission President David Freeman in a statement.

The commissioners were originally set to vote on the program in July, but pushed the decision back two months. They have since delayed action for a second time and have not yet set an official date for the vote.

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