Federal authorities said they are investigating whether a plan to ban older trucks from entering the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach imposes unfair regulations and fees on truckers and shippers.
The Federal Maritime Commission said Wednesday certain aspects of the clean truck program might violate the Shipping Act, which prohibits ports from giving "unreasonable preferences or imposing any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage." It urged port authorities to delay implementing the program, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, until the details of the plan have been properly evaluated.
The ports vowed to proceed with the program.
"We believe that the practices that the commission proposes to investigate are essential to the health, security and safety of the ports, and those who work and live near the ports," officials from both facilities said in a joint statement. "We are certain that these safety and security practices will be found reasonable and lawful under the Shipping Act."
The cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach passed plans earlier this year aimed at reducing truck emissions at the nation's busiest cargo container complex by as much as 80 percent. The plan would replace 16,800 trucks built before 1989 with newer, cleaner-running models and require trucks to meet tougher 2007 federal emissions standards by 2012. A $35 cargo fee will be assessed to help pay for the new vehicles.
The American Trucking Associations, which represents 37,000 trucking companies, sought a court order to stop the program but a federal judge denied the request and an appeals court on Wednesday upheld the ruling.
The industry group said it does not oppose efforts to clean up the air but objects to costly regulations on truckers. They include a Long Beach requirement that trucking companies dispatch only drivers who have undergone a security background check and obtained a federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential. The Los Angeles plan requires the nearly 17,000 independent truckers who work at the port to eventually become employees of trucking companies.
The federal commission said it will look into the restricted access, cargo fees and other measures associated with the program.
"We do think that (the commission) is correct in saying that both ports may be violating the Shipping Act," said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for the truckers association.
The two ports handle about 40 percent of the nation's imported goods.