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USA Today Report: Environmentalist Groups Hurt CA Port Truckers

Environmentalists have skirted responsibility for adversely affecting the trucking industry, according to the report.

An extensive investigation by USA Today last week focused on the unfortunate circumstances faced by many short-haul truck drivers at ports in Southern California, including allegations of tough and exploitive working conditions. However, one group that appears to be skirting responsibility are the environmentalist groups that pushed for so-called “clean energy” policies that upended the transportation system at California’s ports, leading directly to the situation confronting the truck drivers today.

The piece notes that these issues began in 2008 when liberal activists from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Coalition For Clean Air pushed both the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to mandate the replacement of diesel-powered trucks for new rigs, at a cost of some $2.5 billion:

In October 2008, that changed dramatically in southern California, home of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. State officials, fed up with deadly diesel fumes from 16,000 outdated trucks, ordered the entire fleet replaced with new, cleaner rigs.

Suddenly, this obscure but critical collection of trucking companies faced a $2.5 billion crossroads unlike anything experienced at other U.S. ports.

These environmental activists actually began pushing the ports some five years earlier, in 2003, when they reached a settlement with the port and city of Los Angeles to require that non-diesel trucks be used in the shipping terminal, putting many drivers at a disadvantage.

“The port has agreed to make the China Shipping terminal less polluting by requiring non-diesel trucks in the terminal yard and installing electrical power for docked ships so that they do not keep running their diesel engines while in port.”

In 2006, the environmentalist groups linked up with big labor organizations to call for further reductions in diesel emissions at the ports and to try and force drivers to unionize.

This culminated in the forging of a “Landmark Pollution-Control Program” in 2008 that the USA Today article argues was the “critical change” that started to deteriorate the situation for trucker drivers. According to The Los Angeles Times, the program banned all trucks that were built before 1989 and by 2012, only trucks that met the 2007 emissions standards would be allowed to enter the ports.

Four years after the program was implemented, NRDC lawyers wrote that their lawsuit “was indisputably a catalyst for all this positive change.”

When reviewing the conditions that truckers find themselves in today thanks to the environmentalist community’s threats and lawsuits over the last 15 years, it’s startling that the NRDC calls hurting these men and women a “positive change.”