In a series of blogs and open letters, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney David Pettit has attacked the Port of Long Beach CA for working with the trucking industry to develop a Clean Truck Program at the port that is achieving positive results, creates a tightly controlled regulatory atmosphere to ensure that those results are sustained and built upon, and also ends costly litigation.
Pettit and his organization’s motives are unclear, but according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), his arguments are distorted, misleading, and in many instances wrong.
Under the Port of Long Beach’s new Registration and Agreement, motor carriers’ access to the port is tightly controlled, and compliance with regulatory requirements is strictly monitored. First, motor carriers must file the Registration, which gives the port all appropriate licensing and business information. Next, motor carriers must enter all of their trucks and drivers in the Port’s Drayage Truck Registry (DTR). The DTR is then used by the port and marine terminal operators to control individual truck and driver access to the port. Only trucks that meet the requirements of the Clean Truck Program can enter the gate, and only drivers who are properly licensed and have a federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) are permitted inside. All others will be barred from port property. (The Clean Truck Program now requires trucks to be 1989 models or newer. By Jan 1, 2012, only 2007 and later models will be allowed.)
The monitoring process does not end there, however. Once on port property, trucks and drivers are subject to further compliance inspections. The Registration and Agreement expressly provides that all trucks are subject to on-site safety inspections and the port is considering, with trucking industry support, working with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to put a full-service safety inspection station on Port property. Likewise, security and environmental inspections of trucks and drivers is expressly covered by the Registration, which contemplates the port coordinating with the California Air Resources Board to do emission and other environmental-related inspections on port property. With these protocols in place, the ATA says trucks servicing the Port of Long Beach will undoubtedly face the highest level of regulatory oversight of any trucks in the nation.
Pettit ignores these facts and the success story of the port’s Clean Truck Program, which is more than two years ahead of air quality targets, says the ATA. He claims that even though the port has the authority to bar individual trucks and drivers, the Clean Truck Program cannot succeed unless the port can bar entire motor carrier companies.
Congress gives the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sole control of deciding which motor carriers can operate in interstate commerce. Moreover, the FMCSA revokes motor carriers’ authority if safety problems develop. The Port of Long Beach Registration and Agreement specifically warns motor carriers that if the port sees any pattern of violations that it will, in addition to barring non-compliant trucks and drivers from the port, file a complaint with the FMCSA that will allow the appropriate federal regulator to decide whether the motor carriers’ national authority should be pulled.
The ATA says Pettit’s claims regarding expected deficiencies in truck maintenance are unfounded and misinformed. Federal and California truck maintenance regulations require daily pre-trip inspections and a CHP 90-day maintenance inspection requirement with attendant recordkeeping. Those federal and state maintenance regulations coupled with on-port safety and emission inspections will provide tight regulatory oversight that will ensure that port trucks are well-maintained and continue to meet the goals of the Clean Truck Program, says the ATA.