Thursday, February 25, 2010
Court Rejects Challenge to Port’s Clean Trucks Program
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a request to enjoin a number of requirements imposed on motor carriers by the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks Program.
A three-judge panel ruled that federal law regulating interstate commerce does not preempt concession agreements the port requires carriers to sign to enter the port holding motor carriers responsible for truck safety and compliance with anti-pollution and security regulations.
The American Trucking Associations sought an injunction challenging the requirements when the port imposed them in 2008 as part of its program to reduce harmful diesel emissions by 80 percent over five years.
The group argued the requirements were preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which prohibits states from enacting or enforcing “a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.”
The act, however, includes an exception from preemption for states’ ability to regulate motor vehicle safety, and U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder of the Central District of California ruled that many of the provisions were not preempted.
These included requirements that motor carriers be licensed and in good standing; use only “permitted trucks”; be solely responsible for drivers and employees; prepare maintenance plans and be held responsible for vehicle condition and safety; and keep records of driver enrollment in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.
They also included requirements that motor carriers ensure that each truck entering and leaving port property is equipped with a means of Clean Trucks Program compliance verification; comply with federal, state, municipal and port security laws; update and maintain accurate data in certain registries; and allow the port to inspect property and records for compliance.
On appeal, the association argued the provisions were not safety-related because they duplicated already-existing federal laws, but Senior Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Myron H. Bright, sitting by designation, agreed with the district court.
He said that “close scrutiny” revealed that the provisions are “genuinely responsive to motor vehicle safety,” and not preempted.
However, Bright said, Snyder did err in concluding that an additional requirement that trucks display placards with a telephone number fell within a motor safety exception. He noted that 49 U.S.C. § 14506(a) precludes states and local agencies from requiring motor carriers to display identification other than that required by the Transportation Department, and contains no safety exception.
Bright also rejected the association’s claim that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 opinion in Castle v. Hayes Freight Lines, Inc. 348 U.S. 61 barred the port from precluding motor carriers who failed to comply with the requirements from entering. He pointed out that the case “concerned an entirely different” act and that its relevance was limited to the facts at issue there
The judge further opined that the district court did not err in severing provisions that were preempted and enjoining them instead of enjoining enforcement of the agreements entirely.
Snyder ruled last year that some of the provisions did not fall within the motor vehicle safety exception, including the phase-out of independent operators, certain hiring preferences, a financial disclosure requirement, a health insurance requirement, compliance with truck routes and parking restrictions, mandatory concession fees and a Clean Truck Tariff program.
She declined, however, to enjoin enforcement entirely after concluding that the enjoined preempted provisions would not prevent the remaining provisions from functioning effectively, and that severance was appropriate because the provisions were distinctly separated by topic.
Judges Harry Pregerson and Ronald M. Gould joined Bright in his opinion.
The case is American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. The City of Los Angeles, 09-55749.
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