A Regular Fee-for-all!

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Except for owner-operators. For them we could say, “The more things change, the worse they get”.

For those who read the newspapers, it’s obvious that the truckers are responsible for all the problems in and around those sprawling West Coast container terminals. As everyone knows, if it’s in the newspapers, it’s the Gospel truth.

The Clean Air Action Plan Implementation Stakeholders Task Force (whew!) held its first meeting on April 12th and provided the initial draft of a plan that would license drayage company access to West Coast ports and would fine unlicensed trucks. The 24-member group includes representatives from ports, from the maritime industry, from labor, and from environmental groups. Owner-operators, of course, were not mentioned as being represented even though they are the ones the perpetrators are blaming for the poor air quality and congested conditions in port communities.

Under the plan, which would take effect sometime next year, only drayage companies that have applied for and obtained special contracts would be allowed to operate within the ports without paying an impact fee at terminal gates. The proposed range for the fee has been quoted as between $ 34 and $ 54 per trip, and companies without a contract would be required to pay the fee each time one of their drivers transits a gate. According to the plan, the funds generated would help pay for a massive port-developed truck replacement program.

The “help” provided? The plan stated that the ports will also offer a subsidy – funded by the impact fees – to companies willing to replace or retrofit their older vehicles to meet clean air standards. The “subsidy”, the plan admits, will be just a portion of the fines (the mitigation fees) they hope to extract from down-trodden drivers. And the balance of those penalty funds? Where will that go?

Why are these officials allowed to get away with these schemes? The drivers aren’t at fault for the pollution and congestion that have developed in port communities. Instead of heeding former DOT secretary Norman Mineta’s advice to retrofit other ports so that pollution and congestion could be virtually eliminated, these officials persist with their nonsensical plans to increase throughput in their massive junkyards. But their efforts to bale out the sinking ship will prove to be futile.

1. Pollution and congestion problems can only be dealt with effectively by handling most of these containers somewhere else. That’s what Secretary Mineta was trying to point out.
2. Truckers should be employed drivers, not owner-operators. That’s what we’ve been trying to point out.
3. Container terminals should be brought out of the dark ages and retrofitted with our efficient, space-saving, profit-making, pollution-free (and patented) storage and retrieval systems. That’s something else we’ve been trying to point out.
4. And when our systems are finally in place, and they will be, consumers will no longer be hit with fees, fees, and more fees, in order to compensate for irresponsible management.