Court Ruling: Panel Upholds Clean Truck Program Public Health Safeguards

LA Clean Truck Program will continue to operate at Port facilities

LOS ANGELES (September 26, 2011) – Following three years of courtroom battles and three trips to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, today’s Ninth Circuit ruling upholds the core of the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which intervened on behalf of itself, the Sierra Club and Coalition for Clean Air to defend the program against attacks by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

“The health and environmental benefits we’ve fought for remain in place today; now we have to make certain the Port of Los Angeles enforces them,” said David Pettit, director of NRDC’s Southern California Clean Air Program. “Under today’s ruling, the port will need to ensure that truck drivers are not responsible for shouldering the burden of owning and maintaining the trucks, which in the past has led to cutting corners on regular maintenance and safety checks. That isn’t a model for sustainable trucking at the Port of LA or elsewhere.  The port needs to make sure that it is the trucking companies that take financial responsibility for the clean-up.”

Today’s ruling affirms the district court’s decision that the financial capability, maintenance, off-street parking, and placard provisions are not preempted by federal law.  The ruling, however, concluded that the employee-driver provision, that would have required the trucking companies to hire truck drivers as employees, was preempted.  The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder for further proceedings.

“This continues to be a hard-fought battle against an industry clinging to its polluting policies,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney with NRDC. “The progressive clean truck plan at the Port of LA has dramatically reduced the harmful air pollution from port trucking, but absent the employee-driver provision, it won’t stay that way unless trucking companies shoulder the necessary costs of truck upkeep and care.”

This decision joins a district court ruling issued in August 2010, upholding all aspects of the Clean Truck Program, which is designed to significantly reduce truck-related emissions, and promote safe and secure port-trucking operations for the long-term. Ports around the country recognize the need for a clean and sustainable trucking workforce and are mobilizing to implement clean truck programs locally. Today’s decision stems from litigation brought in July 2008 by ATA against the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.