Monday, March 22, 2010

US Truck Row Brews As Teamsters Campaign On Container Shipping Ports

Split Over Port Drayage Legislation
Shipping News Feature

US – The Teamsters union stand accused of using deceit to support their case for banning non union labour from acting as drayage operators, drayage in this case meaning hauliers who work at transporting shipping containers to and from the ports. At the moment federal transport law protect the service from monopolies and ensures competition by allowing independent operators to collect and deliver containerised freight.

Now the union’s campaign, which has used the success of the Port of Los Angeles in reducing pollution in and around the port, has come under heavy criticism from many sides. Leading the charge are some big hitters including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the National Association of Manufacturers plus an alliance of thirty one transport, manufacturing and trade organisations called the Clean and Sustainable Transportation Coalition.

The ATA have said Teamsters’ supporters are circulating a letter that repeats several false claims from the union and promotes the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program as the model pollution-fighting plan. “In just one year, the program replaced 6,000 older trucks with clean diesel and alternative energy vehicles … which will reduce diesel particulate pollution by an estimated 70 percent,” the Teamster letter said. All of this, say the ATA, is true, but proves that the L.A. program is working WITHOUT the banning of independent truck owner-operators and the destruction of independent businesses.

U.S. Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) this week released a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing the Teamster effort. “Compliance with air quality standards should be determined on a truck by truck basis without regard to the employee or ownership status of the driver of that truck,” Rep. Miller said.

The ATA say that a change in the Federal legislation to limit access to drivers only aligned with a union is unnecessary and Teamsters claims that ports would be able to improve environmental standards beyond federal limits are irrelevant as port can already do this if they so wish and nine have already done so without resorting to banning independents. The ATA go on to criticise other statements the union has made on the ports clean truck programme as follows:

'“The program has been challenged in federal court.” FALSE. The L.A. Clean Truck Program is fully supported by the trucking industry. Only the illegal concession requirements, including the owner-operator ban, were challenged in court.'

'“An injunction has been issued to temporarily block the City's ability to directly enforce through concession agreements a ban on motor carriers from bringing dirty trucks into the Port.” FALSE. Even with the injunction against banning owner-operators, the Port of L.A. is banning dirty trucks from entering the port.'

'"The court injunction also prevents the Port from enforcing economic requirements that will ensure expensive new clean trucks will be properly maintained by ending the practice of improperly designating employees as ‘independent contractors.’” FALSE. The independent owner operator status is not improper and repeatedly has been upheld by regulators and courts.'

Further claims that owner operators are less likely to maintain their vehicles and thus they will become more polluting despite their environmental efficiency when new are also denied as the ATA say these vehicles simply shut down when not serviced.

In answer to the unions claim that port pollution is a growing problem the ATA say that even the union-organizer Mayor of Los Angeles says that his Port’s Clean Truck Program is reducing emissions by 70 percent and is 3 years ahead of schedule without banning owner-operators. The problem of truck emissions has been solved in nine ports, including Los Angeles. Rep. Miller’s letter states:

“We believe that protecting our environment by reducing truck emissions is an important mission that we must undertake, and it is easy to see that our nation’s ports play a vital role in that effort. Industry stakeholders, including many small businesses, have shown that they are taking a proactive approach to meeting environmental goals as they have made significant investments in clean equipment. It is important that we do not get distracted by unnecessary provisions and mandates that are not related to environmental goals and could have long term, negative consequences on interstate commerce.”

“Our nation’s businesses depend on an efficient, interconnected transportation network that moves commerce fluidly from U.S. marine ports to the network of surface transportation systems of roads and rails,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in expressing gratitude to Rep. Miller for his stand. “Federal transportation law protects businesses from a patchwork of local and state regulations that would stifle our nation’s economy.”

Photo: Rep. Miller