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ATA files lawsuit against new port restrictions

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the plans by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach CA to limit access to the ports to only those trucking companies that have entered into concession contracts approved by the port program administrator, according to American Trucking Associations (ATA) information.

ATA said it filed the lawsuit July 28 in the US District Court in California because the concession plans impose a broad range of operational requirements that create a regulatory environment very similar to state intrastate economic regulation. The ports have acknowledged that these intrusive regulatory systems will result in far fewer trucking companies being able to service the ports, reducing competition.

"We firmly believe that these concession programs unlawfully re-regulate the port trucking industry to the detriment of motor carriers, shippers, and the businesses and consumers that depend on the products that are handled at those ports," Bill Graves, ATA president, said in the news release. "We are particularly concerned with the Port of Los Angeles’ concession requirement that will lead to a complete ban of the use of independent contractor/owner operator drivers in servicing that port’s operations within five years. That requirement, which has nothing to do with the clean air goals of the ports’ Clean Truck Program, threatens a well-established trucking industry operational practice that provides efficiencies and the flexibility needed for the trucking industry to effectively serve our customers."

Graves said that the litigation is not aimed at and should not interfere with the ports’ clean air efforts. "Despite the additional costs that our industry will incur, we strongly support the ports’ efforts to reduce truck emissions and our lawsuit does not challenge any aspect of those efforts," Graves said.

"We are challenging only the intrusive and unnecessary regulatory structure being created under the Concession Plans," IMCC Executive Director Curtis Whalen, executive director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference (IMCC) said in the ATA release. "As Congress recognized when it created price, routes, and services preemption, regulatory schemes like the Concession Plans burden interstate commerce and are bad for the American economy." IMCC is supporting the ATA argument.

ATA said that in its filing, the association specifically asserts that the ports’ actions violate the federal statutory provision (49 USC 14501) which prohibits states or their political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing a legal requirement that is "related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier." The filing points to a host of regulatory requirements (for example, submission of truck-maintenance, safety and parking plans; equipment marking and tracking; financial oversight; routing mandates; and periodic reviews and audits) that will dramatically affect a motor carrier’s operations at the ports in terms of price, routes, and services.

ATA pointed out that the filing also relies heavily on the United States Supreme Court’s recent unanimous ruling interpreting that federal preemption provision. Citing language in that case, the trucking industry papers argue that laws like the Concession Plans that substitute "governmental commands for ‘competitive market forces’ in determining the services that a motor carrier will provide" are preempted.

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