Congressional hearings set on Clean Truck Programs

A U.S. House subcommittee has scheduled a May 5 hearing to assess the Clean Truck Programs for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The Subcommittee on Highways and Transit has listed “Assessing the Implementation and Impacts of the Clean Truck Programs” for the two ports, but did not elaborate.

The Port of Los Angeles and the American Trucking Associations were scheduled to battle in court yesterday, April 20, over the employee requirement of its Clean Truck Program.

The civil trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is to consider ATA’s request for a permanent injunction to block requiring all drivers to be employees of approved trucking companies. The port has argued this is the only way to help truckers buy and maintain new lower-emissions trucks.

However, its sister port of Long Beach instituted the same Clean Truck Program and emission requirements, minus the employee requirement. In January, Long Beach announced it had met its clean air goals nearly two years ahead of schedule.

In October, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission extended a contract with a lobbying firm, founded by former Democrat U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, to lobby for changes to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. Nationwide, several ports have expressed interest in obtaining an FAAA exemption from Congress for port operations related to trucking.
Motor carriers and shippers vigorously oppose this effort, contending unions have sought this exemption because if truckers are employees instead of owner-operators, they could unionize.

The FAAA prohibits any regulation related to the “price, route or service of any motor carrier.” Any exception must be “genuinely responsive to safety concerns.”

The subcommittee is under the umbrella of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, headed by Rep. James L. Oberstar (D- Minn.). On March 25, the congressman noted in a floor statement that H.R. 1586 also amends the Railway Labor Act to clarify that employees of an “express carrier” shall be covered by the RLA only if their job title is eligible for certification under FAA’s rules, such as mechanics.

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All other express carrier employees, such as truck drivers, would be governed by the National Labor Relations Act 

“This change would remove the disparity in current law that Federal Express drivers are governed under the RLA, which requires organization for collective bargaining on a nationwide basis, while drivers for the United Parcel Service and other express carriers are governed by the NLRA, which permits organization on a local basis,” Oberstar said.

This provision was debated in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and agreed to by a recorded vote of 51 to 18.

By a vote of 276-145, the House amended the bill, the Federal Aviation Administration Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, and ordered the bill returned to the Senate.