Sticker Shock

• From American Shipper:

“SoCal ports see smooth launch of truck program”

“The official launch of a trucking re-regulation program at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles appeared to go off without a hitch Wednesday, with trucks moving easily through terminal gates and even small hiccups in the plan predicted by the ports not materializing.

“Port of Long beach Executive Director Richard Steinke, watching trucks enter the Long Beach Container terminal Wednesday morning, said the port was excited that the program was underway.

“‘I think this is a great day for us,’ Stenke said. ‘A lot of people questioned whether we were going to be able to make it happen on Oct.1. We are here, stickers are affixed, we are going to be controlling access into the terminals, and this is a great day for us to move forward with the Clean Air Action Plan.’

“Next door at the Port of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially launched his port’s truck program, saying, ‘People said the fight would be too hard, but we kept on truckin’ because we knew that the people of our port communities needed relief.’…”

• From a WCMTOA Press Release, however, we got a different slant on things:

“Marine Terminal Operators to Implement Dirty Truck Ban but Express Concern to Los Angeles and Long Beach ports”

“LONG BEACH, Calif. – (BUSINESS WIRE) – The members of the West Coast Marine Terminal Operator Agreement (WCMTOA) announced that beginning today, October 1, individual terminal operators plan to implement a ban on older, polluting trucks under the Clean Trucks Program of the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.

“At the same time, WCMTOA members expressed to the ports their concern that the ports have not completed the preparations necessary for a smooth implementation. Under their program, trucks must be listed in the ports’ Drayage Truck Registry to gain admittance to the ports. The DTR is not yet in place.

“As a stopgap, the two ports have begun issuing port-authorized stickers to trucks that have been registered. But as of Tuesday morning, fewer than a third of the trucks arriving at the ports have these stickers. Terminal operators checking trucks found that between 22 percent and 32 percent of trucks had the port-issued stickers. With more than 36,000 truck moves each day at the marine terminals at the two adjacent ports – the functioning of the U.S. goods movement system and of the broader U.S. economy depend on having a smooth flow of cargo through the terminals.

“Terminal operators will monitor conditions throughout the day, and will confer regularly. If the truck ban produces gridlock on roads in and around the terminals, or if the number of trucks available is not sufficient to meet the need, the terminal operators will immediately bring those concerns to the ports and seek a rapid resolution.

“‘We have voiced our concerns to the ports about the number of trucks that have received approval to operate in the ports,’ said Bruce Wargo, secretary of WCMTOA. ‘We are concerned that inadequate preparation could lead to gridlock around the ports and a disruption to the flow of national commerce. We will implement the ports’ program beginning today, but will closely monitor the situation, with the ports, and respond as necessary.’…”

So, who do we believe … those insisting that “even small hiccups … are not materializing”? That “stickers are affixed … and this is a great day for us”?

Or should we heed the concerns of the WCMTOA that “inadequate preparation could lead to gridlock … and a disruption to the flow of national commerce”?

The Federal Maritime Commission isn’t enthusiastic about the SoCal truck plan either and is investigating seven possible violations of the Shipping Act of 1984:
• A mandate that only employee drayage drivers be used by trucking firms serving the ports.
• Whether trucking firms receive undue advantage or disadvantage from banning independent owner-operators.
• Whether trucking firms receive undue advantage or disadvantage from port-offered incentives to join the drayage fleet.
• Whether port rules to deny access to terminals if truck firms do not follow off-street parking requirements is a violation.
• Whether the ports refused to deal or negotiate with truck firms that use independent owner-operators.
• Whether exemptions from a container tax for certain truck firms provides undue advantage or disadvantage to those firms.
• Whether the ports failed to properly publish criteria under which ports-issued access licenses would be granted.

But those are just technicalities. What’s really important is the practical effects that the ports’ “inadequate preparation” will have on the “flow of national commerce” and on air pollution:
• A spokesman for a trucking company in Wilmington said that 30 percent to 40 percent of the firm’s regular drivers are planning to leave the area because they do not wish to be employees, as the port of Los Angeles requires.
• A further concern raised about the truck program, is that no one seems to know where the more than 2,300 pre-1989 trucks identified and banned as of Wednesday have gone. It seems that the drivers have moved to other areas and are contributing to local pollution.

[But spreading pollution isn’t what we had in mind when we advocated “spreading the risk”. We were recommending that TEU volumes in Southern California be reduced and transferred instead to under-utilized ports on the West Coast. That would solve all the problems. Cheaply.]