The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 73/No. 47      December 7, 2009

Los Angeles truckers
protest onerous rules
LOS ANGELES—Truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach tied up traffic for hours November 13 with a caravan to City Hall to protest new regulations that are devastating for truckers trying to make a living. Organizers say more than 1,500 trucks joined the caravan; the Los Angeles Times said it was “more than 400.”

“About 6,000 trucks and drivers will be out of work January 1 because of the Clean Truck Program,” said Glenn Amaya, a member of the National Port Drivers Association, in a phone interview. The NPDA called the protest.

Starting January 1, all trucks built before 1994 will be barred from the ports. Trucks built from 1994 to 2003 can only enter if they have been retrofitted to reduce emissions—which costs tens of thousands of dollars per truck.

The stated goal of the Clean Truck Program is to reduce diesel emissions at the ports. By 2012, all trucks that don’t meet 2007 emissions standards will be banned. Drivers are quick to point out that the program targets independent truckers, while allowing shipping companies, oil refineries, and rail yards to continue contaminating the air.

“We’re not against going green, but this is drastic. It’s so many trucks at once,” said Amaya. “We’re demanding an extension for all the trucks that are 2003 and under, and an investigation of what happened to the grants.” He and other NPDA members say that the government has provided tens of millions of dollars to large trucking companies to buy new trucks, but that independent truckers haven’t gotten any of the grants. A new truck costs more than $100,000.

Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been a big promoter of the Clean Truck Program, said independent drivers should join trucking companies that could cover such expenses.

At a truck stop near the port in Long Beach the day after the protest, many drivers told Militant correspondents that they have had to sell their trucks, or will do so, because they can’t meet the new requirements. One trucker pointed out that the slowdown in the economy is aiding the bosses in putting the burden of cleaning the air on the backs of workers.

Drivers are also affected by the fees the Port of Long Beach is charging for all containers hauled by pre-2007 trucks—$35 for loaded 20-foot or smaller containers and $70 for larger ones.

Bolorerdene Ganbat said he does not know what he’ll do after January 1. His 2001 truck will need a retrofit to enter the port. The Port of Long Beach did a lottery to pay to upgrade some trucks, and he won. But in exchange, he has to commit to hauling at least 150 containers per year from the port. “I checked with different companies, and they all said they couldn’t guarantee me work because it’s still an old truck,” and they would have to pay the fees, he said. “They want to only give the work to people with new trucks.”

Arturo Cadillo, who took part in the November 13 caravan, worked for many years as a port driver in Los Angeles and now does long distance driving out of Texas. “We have to stop the abuse,” he said. “They target us because we don’t have representatives.”
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