SoCal Ports' Clean Truck Plans Overcome Court Challenge

Environmentalists Vow to Protect Local Residents from Lethal Pollution

LOS ANGELES (April 29, 2009) – The toughest clean truck plans in the country survived a legal challenge by the trucking industry today. U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder denied a request by the American Trucking Association (ATA) to grant a preliminary injunction that would have devastated the clean truck plans enacted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Although a provision of the Port of Los Angeles plan requiring a phase-in of employee drivers rather than independent owner-operators was put on hold pending a December, 2009 trial, the requirements that port-serving trucks be safe and adequately maintained were upheld. The requirement that trucks meet stringent emissions limits and the funding mechanism set up by the ports to replace the 17,000 old, dirty trucks that carry cargo to and from Long Beach and San Pedro are also intact.

Replacing the port truck fleet is expected to reduce truck-produced air pollution at the ports 80 percent by 2012. Today’s decision allows the replacement of these trucks to proceed as planned. However, without the employee program, port cleanup goals could be severely delayed because most independent owner-operators cannot afford to maintain and repair their trucks.

Under the trucking concession agreements attacked by the ATA, the ports have control over the identity and condition of the trucks that come onto port property. This is critical to public health because, together, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are responsible for 2,000 tons of diesel particulate pollution every year. This type of air pollution is known to contribute to chronic respiratory disease and premature death for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles area residents. 

Following is a statement by Peter Lehner, executive director, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“These are the most dramatic diesel pollution reduction programs at any port in the world. They will save up to a thousand or more lives and billions of dollars in health costs and will create a model for other ports around the world. We should not accept even one more child being diagnosed with asthma caused by breathing diesel exhaust, especially when this pollution is preventable with existing affordable technology. The fight for a sustainable clean truck program is far from over; we will stay at it and beat back the indefensible claims of those opposed.”

Following is a statement by Carl Pope, executive director, Sierra Club:

“The clean truck programs at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports benefit workers’ quality of life and create healthy neighborhoods for area residents, all while promoting a vital port economy. We will work with our labor and community allies to implement these programs and ensure a healthy, equitable and sustainable outcome for everyone.”


Last July, the ATA filed suit against the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, attempting to block the clean truck programs that went into effect October 1, 2008 and retired more than 2,000 pre-1989 diesel trucks from the fleet that serves the ports. In September, ATA lost its injunction request in district court and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that the ports’ concession plans violated the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. Last month, the federal Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling and instructed District Court Judge Snyder to reconsider halting parts of the clean truck plans until a trial is complete. 

The lawsuit centers not only on trucking companies operating at the ports, but also the disposition of fees collected by the ports for the cleanup of the truck fleet. Unless the fleet cleanup can be funded, the program’s clean air goals will be unattainable. NRDC, Sierra Club, and the Coalition for Clean Air intervened to defend these programs.

Both ports have committed to replacing the fleet of old, dirty port-serving trucks, but those commitments would have been at risk if ATA’s injunction request had been successful. Roughly 17,000 diesel cargo trucks are scheduled to be phased out during the next five years and replaced with EPA 2007 compliant trucks. Replacing the port truck fleet is expected to reduce truck-produced air pollution at the ports 80 percent by 2012. By December 31, 2009, all pre-1994 trucks and non-retrofitted 1994-2000 trucks (roughly 7,500) will be banned from entering port property. 

For more information, read David Pettit’s blog at: