Los Angeles Port Commissioner says truckers could pay the price for clean air freight charges – Daily Breeze
Plans by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to charge a $ 10 truck fee to enter a fund that would pay for a zero-emissions transition are moving towards implementation. But one question remains when it comes to possible unintended consequences: will it backfire on port truckers.
Los Angeles Port Commissioner Edward Renwick warned fellow commissioners this week that it could hurt port truckers, considered among the lowest-paid workers at the dual port complex.
“I think we made a mistake,” Renwick said, referring to the March 2020 vote by the two ports to institute a charge on freight owners. “The goals are great, cleaning the air is vitally important. But at the end of the day, I believe we are moving to a system where we tax $ 70 million to $ 90 million from 11,000 to 16,000 working poor in America.
The concern, which has been expressed repeatedly by other commissioners and drivers themselves in the past, is that the charges will be passed on to the truckers.
“I don’t think anybody wants to oppress people,” Renwick said at the regular harbor commission meeting on Thursday, May 20, where the board approved the process to start putting in place the collection infrastructure. “It’s just an observation, but I don’t think anyone cares about these people.”
He asked other board members to delay approval of a motion to give PortCheck, the company approved for the work, the green light to begin the months-long process of setting up the rate collection service of the Clean Truck Fund for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Specifically, Renwick wanted to wait until an ongoing port investigation was completed at the end of the summer that would provide more information on the owner-operator drivers who pick up and deliver cargo to port hubs.
The survey, undertaken by the Port of Los Angeles, is expected to provide information on driver wages and other demographic information. Some 17,000 truckers serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Renwick’s effort, however, was unsuccessful. The motion to go ahead with the implementation of the collection software was approved 4 to 1.
The Long Beach Harbor Commission unanimously approved the same motion on April 26, without much discussion.
Port of Los Angeles attorney Janna Sidley said the collection agreement was made specifically with the cargo owners and did not include anything outside of that agreement.
“In theory (someone could) call a trucking company and say, ‘If you want my business, you’re going to pay that cost,’” Sidley said. “I don’t know if this is happening or if it is not.”
The approved motion will allow the company to move forward with building the software collection system, a process that will take approximately seven months.
Taking into account subsequent approvals that will also be required from marine terminals and the Federal Maritime Commission, the system could be in place by the end of this year or early 2022, said Heather Tomley, chief planning and operations officer. environmental affairs of the Port of Long Beach.
The program would put about $ 40 million each in each port’s coffers each year for three years, money that would be used to reinvest in cleaner trucks.
Environmentalists at the time lobbied for higher fees, saying the $ 10 per 20-foot equivalent unit, the universal measure of cargo used – which stands at $ 20 for a typical load of a 40ft container – was too low. Ports aim to achieve zero emissions for trucks by 2035.
Approval of the motion this week, said board members who supported the measure, would only allow the system to begin to be built. A separate vote will be required to adopt the tariff at a later date.
“I’m reluctant to delay this because if the results of the (truckers) study don’t come out until the end of the summer, that puts everything back in place,” said Jaime Lee, chairman of the board. from Los Angeles. “None of us want to clean the air on the backs of these drivers.”
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said the charges could still be stopped at a later date – even with Thursday’s approval.
“This is an extremely complex equation of how to get newer, cleaner equipment into the hands of operators,” Seroka said. “Today it’s just a matter of (approving) the mechanism for collecting and dispersing those $ 10 fees that the two commissions voted on over a year ago, no more, no less. “
The trucking survey, Seroka said, “may not tell us to stop, but it can tell us to pivot to make sure we don’t impact those affected in the past. “
Drivers, he said, earn an average of $ 50,000 to $ 60,000.
But drivers also have to maintain their trucks, and many do not receive sick leave or vacation pay.
Renwick, for his part, said that while the Port and Harbor Commission did a lot of analysis before approving the $ 10 fee, officials did not have information on how it could harm truckers. .
“I don’t see why we think (the freight owners) won’t push it on the truck drivers,” Renwick said, “because they push everything else.
“I think,” he added, “we are making a huge mistake which we will regret.”