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Supreme Court rocks decision on Port of LA

By: Chelsea Tucker

Chelsea Tucker

A recent graduate from The University of Alabama, Chelsea is currently pursuing a Master's Degree and works as a web relations coordinator at Randall-Reilly.



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“I got it, I got it. I got your number off the…” truck?

U.S. Supreme CourtWell, actually, maybe not. Due to the Supreme Court ruling on June 13th striking down two conditions of The Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program, drivers using the bustling LA port will not be required to affix placards to their trucks with phone numbers for acute citizens to call and report environmental or safety issues.

The Tommy Tutone reference is all thanks to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. It seems Justice Kagan had a bout of 80s fever when she wrote the official Supreme Court Justice Opinion, slipping in the 867-5309 phone number with a Los Angeles area code to make her point.

Along with the phone number provision, a requirement calling for companies to present a list of places where trucks not in use would be allowed to park away from residential streets was also defeated.

A little backstory

The court case dates back to 2008 when a program created by the City of Los Angeles was implemented in an attempt to better the air quality of the area. The first part of the program banned excessively polluting trucks over a four year period. The trucks leading the ban were those manufactured before 1989. In 2010, the next ban took place on trucks manufactured before the year 1993 and trucks between 1993 and 2003 that had not been retrofitted to meet environmental standards. The last ban took place in January of last year and banned any trucks not complying with the 2007 Federal Clean Truck Emissions Standards.

Backing up to 2008, the American Trucking Association (ATA) sued the port of Los Angeles for implementing the placard and parking standards, along with standards relating to what kinds of employees can use the port, maintenance of the trucks, and financial aspects of the conditions. The ATA asserted that these standards are in violation of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, or the FAAAA, and the Castle v. Hayes Freight Lines, Inc. ruling of 1954. That ruling prohibits states from banning trucks access to interstates for breaking state but not federal regulations.

In 2010, the U.S. District Court of California denied the ATA’s case. The Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision on all matters except the stipulation concerning employees allowed in the port. This stipulation presented in the Clean Truck Program prohibits any independent contract driver from entering and doing business in the port. The change was set to take place over a five year period.Port of Los Angeles Clean Up Program

Los Angeles defended this provision by stating that employees who were on individual contracts were not paid enough to keep their trucks up to environmental standards. The Harbor Trucking Association, along with the ATA,  denies that being the case and insisted on the freedom to determine which kind of drivers best suit the particular job.

Where the Supreme Court stands

The Supreme Court only ruled on the two stipulations that regarded placard and parking list, because those are the points they found to be against the FAAAA of 1994. The 1994 act prohibits states from creating or enforcing regulations that have the “force and effect of law” or that interfere with a carrier’s price, route, or service. The Supreme Court found that these provisions interfered with those facets of business and also determined that the provision did have the “force and effect of law.” The Clean Truck Program has this effect by punishing terminal operators with the risk of incarceration that allow carriers to conduct business that have not met the program’s provisions.

The CEO of the ATA, Bill Graves, believes this court ruling is a win for trucking companies. Meanwhile the spokesperson for the port of Los Angeles, Phillip Sanfield, noted that 80% of their original program was still supported. Maybe everyone can feel like a winner and this case will not appear in court again. Then again, when it comes to government control versus private industry, there is seldom an easy answer.

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