By CLAYTON BOYCE

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their supporters are misleading the public about the nature of our lawsuit against the ports. First, they've wrongly suggested that if the ports lose the lawsuit, air-quality improvement efforts would be delayed and truckers should be blamed. Second, they have overstated the extent that trucks contribute to air pollution in the ports. Trucks cause only 10 percent, while ships and boats cause 70 percent.

The American Trucking Associations supports the truck retirement plan and the deadlines for banning older trucks from the ports, and it is only that plan that will reduce diesel truck emissions in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. If ATA ultimately prevails in its lawsuit, the truck retirement plan and banning of older trucks will go on as scheduled, a fact that port officials have repeatedly acknowledged, including during a congressional hearing last month.

Although ATA supports the ports' clean truck program, it is important to note that the ports have exaggerated the amount of port air pollution caused by trucks and the effect that the clean truck program will have in cleaning the air. Only 10 percent of the air pollution in ports is caused by trucks, while ships cause 59 percent, harbor craft 11 percent and dockside cargo handling equipment 14 percent. One reason that ships cause the largest portion of the air pollution is that they use bunker fuel, the cheapest, dirtiest diesel available, while almost all trucks use ultra-low sulfur diesel, the most expensive, cleanest diesel available. These findings were established in 2008 by Energy Futures Inc., an independent environmental and energy research firm.

In an Aug. 15 memo to motor carriers currently operating at the ports, the Port of Los Angeles made clear that the ATA lawsuit will not affect the clean truck program: "This litigation affects the Concession Program only. It does not affect the truck ban or the CTF (Clean Truck Fee). As such the ban and fee will become effective on Oct. 1, 2008, regardless of the status of the litigation. On this date all pre-1989 trucks will be banned from the Port and BCOs (Beneficial Cargo Owners) that do not use U.S. EPA 2007 compliant alterative fuel or privately funded diesel vehicles will be assessed a fee of $35 per container that moves through the port."

Labor interests

Our lawsuit seeks to overturn only the illegal port concession plans that would reregulate the interstate trucking industry competing at the ports. The ports themselves have acknowledged that the common belief is that this is a purely political move motivated by pressure from labor interests. The ports' concession plans will impose significant barriers to free competition at the ports and replace a highly competitive port trucking industry with one that is structured by government regulation. Such a regulated industry will increase costs for not only motor carriers, but the tens of thousands of shippers that use the ports and millions of American consumers that will see higher prices for goods moved through the ports.

A particularly onerous requirement contained only in the Los Angeles Concession Plan is that only corporations, and no independent owner-operators, may haul freight from the port. There are now more than 1,500 independent owner-operators working the port who would be banned from pursuing their livelihood on Oct. 1. It is no coincidence that independent contractors are not subject to union organization, but employee drivers are. The transition to employee drivers opens the door for large-scale organization of drayage drivers by labor unions.

American Shipper magazine described the labor connection to the concession plans as follows: "The recent Teamsters' effort, which has seen the union partner with numerous environmental and social justice groups, came after nearly a decade of traditional and failed drayage driver organizing efforts by the union in Long Beach and Los Angeles, the nation's two busiest container ports. Teamster President James Hoffa in mid-2007 presented the outline of the union's trucking plan to (Los Angeles Mayor Antonio) Villaraigosa, a former union organizer who received sizable backing from labor organizations in his mayoral campaign. The drayage reregulation plan adopted jointly by the two Southern California ports late last year retained much of the plan Hoffa originally presented to Villaraigosa."

The ports, politicians and Teamsters have been able to secure the support of environmental and community groups in furtherance of a goal that has nothing to do with the environment.

Although a federal judge has denied ATA's request for a preliminary injunction against the harmful parts of the concession plans, ATA will, with a clean conscience on environmental matters, continue to pursue justice.

Clayton Boyce is vice president of public affairs for the American Trucking Associations based in Arlington, Va. It is the largest trade association for the trucking industry.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.