Plans to vote on the controversial program to reduce diesel truck emissions which may wipe out more than 1,000 small trucking companies at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are mired in delays and will be postponed for the second time this year.


Though the ports have not yet made an announcement, Los Angeles Harbor Commission President David Freeman said last week that because of the delays, they would not be able to begin the program by the target date.


"The kickoff date will be much later than January," he said. "This is going to be a major adjustment and we have to make sure that we continue to move the goods."


The decision to postpone the vote comes in the wake of a new study that suggests a number of independent truckers would be put out of business by the plan and that the delivery of cargo would be negatively affected, though the plan would ultimately save money and cut pollution.


After pushing the vote back from the original July date, the harbor commissioners for the two ports had planned to make a decision on the Clean Trucks Program this month. They have yet to schedule a vote however, amid concerns over the possible impact of the program on the port trucking industry.


"Our timeline obviously was not met but I'm very optimistic that we are going to move forward soon," Long Beach Harbor Commission President Mario Cordero said in an interview last week. "Because of the magnitude of the plan, there are still some items that need to be worked out. I'm hopeful that we can do it within the next 30 days."


But sources familiar with the situation say the vote could be pushed back as late as November.


The $1.8 billion plan, part of the ports' sweeping environmental program known as the Clean Air Action Plan, seeks to reduce diesel truck emissions by as much as 80 percent by replacing the oldest trucks with newer less-polluting rigs. With an estimated 16,000 trucks serving the ports, the smoke-belching vehicles are blamed for being a major contributor to the high rates of asthma, lung disease and cancer in and around San Pedro.


But the program has drawn strong criticism from the trucking industry for its requirement that all drivers, most of whom are classified as independent owner operators, become employees of trucking companies. This, motor carriers say, will drive up their costs including higher driver salaries, worker benefits and truck maintenance and force the majority of the 1,300 port trucking companies out of business.

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