October 26, 2009 8:00 AM, EDT

Forging a Port Compromise

This Editorial appears in the Oct. 26 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The settlement that American Trucking Associations negotiated with the Port of Long Beach last week is the kind of compromise that is so difficult to accomplish: Both sides got most of what they wanted.

This agreement preserves both the environmental, security and safety goals of the port and the business independence of the fleets that move the freight there (click here for story).

Under the plan, all 900 fleets currently approved to perform drayage service at the busy container port will continue to be eligible, as long as they comply with Long Beach’s operating rules, add radio frequency identification tags to their tractors and pay a $250 fee.

But the fleets won’t have to comply with what ATA saw as unnecessary and intrusive requirements having to do with off-site parking plans, driver training and other things unrelated to the business of handling freight.

This out-of-court settlement removes the need for a slow and expensive legal proceeding and allows the port to concentrate on improving the air quality and safety standards there.

ATA President Bill Graves said the agreement lets the port proceed with its environmental objectives while ensuring “strict compliance with, and adherence to, all safety and security laws and regulations.”

It was heartening to see the comments of the port commission’s president, Nick Sramek, that the settlement represents “a critical milestone for the [clean trucks] program, reaching consensus with an important industry partner.”

As Graves said last week, ATA has “never disagreed with their objectives, only with certain provisions of the concession agreements, which we believed were unnecessary.”

Unfortunately, this agreement has no effect on the fight between ATA and the adjacent Port of Los Angeles, which is persisting in its ill-advised campaign to reshape trucking activities at its facility to the liking of the Teamsters union.

A judge already has indicated that ATA is likely to prevail in its claim that Los Angeles’ attempts to ban owner-operators from moving freight there, and other provisions of its clean trucks plan, are unconstitutional.

Yet, Los Angeles apparently is intent on continuing its wasteful fight with ATA in the courts and is not a party to the agreement with Long Beach.

Well, we’re more than halfway home and fully expect to prevail when the court case with Los Angeles resumes in February.