Groups want high court review of port case

Jill Dunn | February 24, 2012

Trucking organizations have filed briefs supporting American Trucking Associations’ request that the Supreme Court review a court’s ruling regarding Port of Los Angeles trucking concession requirements.

Last month, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, National Industrial Transportation League and Harbor Trucking Association filed amicus, or friend of the court, briefs in favor of ATA’s bid for the high court to review the 9th Circuit ruling issued last September.

The Supreme Court has not indicated if it will grant the association’s Dec. 22 request to hear the case.

The September decision overturned the district court’s upholding of the most contentious component of the port’s trucking concession requirements, which would have required truckers serving the port be carrier employees, not owner-operators. However, it affirmed other port trucking concession requirements regarding off-street parking, placards, truck maintenance and carrier proof of financial responsibility.

The ATA had argued the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Act preempts the port from enforcing the concession agreement. The act notes states and state political subdivision “may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.”

However, the court held port officials could impose these rules because it was acting as a “market participant” in its capacity as a “landlord,” rather than as a regulator.

Ports nationwide considering pursuing the Los Angeles program are following the case closely, making Supreme Court review key to clarifying the issue, according to amicus briefs. OOIDA asserted the court should overturn the ruling to discourage states and localities from attempting to follow the port’s lead to “create their own unique rules in areas already occupied by federal law under the guise of marketplace participation.”

The port’s program places a greater financial burden on interstate truckers than drayage haulers who can spread costs with many more trips, it noted.

The National Industrial Transportation League and U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued the ruling’s implications exceed trucking. The FAAAA lacks a market participation exception but moreover, port officials are operating in a regulatory rather than market capacity. If this decision stands, the preemption provisions in the act and other federal statutes can easily be circumvented, the two organizations stated.

That view was echoed in briefs filed by Harbor Trucking Association, which membership include carriers that move Los Angeles port cargo and Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm.

The port’s response to the ATA’s petition was filed Feb. 21.

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.