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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Supreme Court Slaps L.A. Clean Truck Program

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor—at least in part—of a trucking industry group’s challenge to the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program, which features a comprehensive licensing program on the port’s freight truck traffic.

The high court unanimously ruled that the Port of Los Angeles may not impose the placarding and parking provisions of its concession plan on trucking companies. Thus, it upheld a significant part of the position that American Trucking Association took in pushing for the court’s review and reversal of the port’s concession agreement earlier this year.

The court declined to rule on a second aspect of the case, however, involving how the port enforces its financial capacity and truck maintenance requirements.

ATA has challenged the program through lower courts since 2008, when the Port of Los Angeles instituted the Clean Truck Program requiring port truckers to join a concession agreement in order to provide service on port property.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) “expressly preempts the concession agreement’s placard and parking requirements.” Those provisions required carriers to submit an off-street parking plan, and to mount placards with a phone number so the public can report concerns about safety or the environment.

Kagan continued, “(The Port) forced terminal operators – and through them, trucking companies – to alter their conduct by implementing a criminal prohibition punishable by imprisonment. That counts as action ‘having the force and effect of law’ if anything does.”

ATA also contended that under a 1954 Supreme Court decision, Castle v. Hayes Freight Lines, the port could not suspend or revoke a carrier’s access.

But the justices did not take a position on this issue. The court said that Castle does not prevent a state from taking a noncompliant truck off the road, and said there is no basis for finding that the port will use the concession agreement to do so.

“Our position has always been that the port's attempt to regulate drayage operators – in ways that had nothing to do with its efforts to improve air quality at the Port – was inconsistent with Congress' command that the trucking industry be shaped by market forces, rather than an incompatible patchwork of state and local regulations,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement. “The decision is sure to send a signal to any other cities who may have been considering similar programs which would impermissibly regulate the port trucking industry.”

Not so fast there Bill, the other important provisions of the Clean Truck program remain intact – including financial capacity and truck-maintenance requirements.

A City of Los Angeles notice said that as a result of the decision, LA will not enforce the placarding and off-street parking provision of the Clean Truck program. “The City shall enforce the remainder of the Concession Agreement consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

Not quite the slam dunk, then, that the ATA thinks, but the battle over the Clean Truck program likely will continue.

[Image: Supreme Court by scottlenger via Flickr cc]

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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