Self-support Group

Here’s what appeared in one of last week’s news reports.

“Celebrating its Centennial in 2007, the Port of Los Angeles is the largest seaport in the nation in terms of shipping container volume and cargo value. The Port generates 919,000 regional jobs and $ 39.1 billion in annual wages and tax revenues. A proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles, the Port is self-supporting and does not receive taxpayer dollars.”

That’s what the report said … word for word. But it isn’t the truth. Who provided the startup funding for the port in the first place? Well it couldn’t have been the non-existent port, so maybe it was a group of free-lancing longshoremen?

And what about the $ 8.1 billion estimate for infrastructure upgrades the port officials say are needed? This past July, you’ll recall, those officials stated that the ports are willing to shoulder 3.3 percent ($ 267 million) of the total cost. That’s “self-supporting”, alright.

Internal port documents obtained a while ago revealed a port funding scheme showing that taxpayer funds from federal, state and local sources would be used to pay for $ 3.7 billion of the total cost and that the remaining $ 4.1 billion or so would be passed along to importers, exporters and railroads through port-imposed fees. All these costs, these port-imposed fees, would be passed down along the chain to consumers in the form of higher prices, of course.

The above-mentioned documents spoke mainly of a number of on-dock rail projects, the expansion of a short port-area freeway to a port railyard, the rebuilding of freeway connectors serving the Los Angeles port, highway-rail grade separations in surrounding counties, and the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement. All of these “upgrades” are intended to promote a doubling of the ports’ volume over the next decade. And more pollution. And more port-imposed fees.

What the documents don’t detail, however, is the issue that will pull the rug out from under those “self-supporting” ports. The Clean Truck Programme, or whatever name it goes by today, is a scheme that can never succeed. Compromise is impossible because too much is being demanded of all who have a stake in the handling of containerized goods. In theory, this issue can be solved only if all parties affected will offer an ox to be gored. The problem is that the greatest number of the parties, the truck drivers, don’t have an ox they can offer.

Knowing this from the beginning, the brain trust decided to replace these troublesome drivers in much the same way they decided to replace the troublesome Gerald Desmond Bridge. Stupidly. They seem to think that larger trucking firms will rush in to fill the void left by the fallen owner-operators. Either they weren’t listening when a J. B. Hunt representative tried to explain that rates are too low to make it profitable for large firms to pull cargo from the two ports, or they’re still convinced that “port-imposed” fees are the cure-all. Well, they’re not. Port-imposed fees will prove to be the “tipping point” Fran Inman was warning about a couple of years ago.