• Dec 15, 2010
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pushed his "Clean Truck Program" as a way to improve the air quality in and around the Port of Los Angeles. And while a cleaner air is in everyone's best interest, a Los Angeles Times report suggests that it could be truckers who are left holding the short end of the stick. Semi drivers have been encouraged to replace their beat-up, high pollution diesel rigs for much newer trucks with particulate filters that trap harmful gasses before they ever reach the atmosphere.

But while the new trucks are most definitely cleaner, they're also far more expensive; often costing over $100,000 each. Truckers are leasing the vehicles from the trucking companies for over $1,000 per month, and they also have to spring for fuel and insurance and maintenance costs are said to have risen. Some drivers say that they have been driven to sleep in their rigs at night to save time and increase earning, and even after that after paying for the bills, wages can be as low as $7 per hour.

Trucking companies say that the drivers aren't faring nearly as poorly as advertised, and they counter that the Clean Truck Program's real aim was to unionize the drivers. According to the LAT, that was actually supposed to be part of the plan, as Mayor Villaraigosa intended for truckers to give up on being independent contractors in favor of becoming employees of the trucking company. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa justifies unionizing the employees, adding that the drivers are "slaves" to their rigs. Meanwhile, the trucking companies have taken the government to court in an effort keep the the city from forcing the companies to hire on the workers with benefits including health care. The industry promises to continue to fight hiring the thousands of port workers even if the case needs to go to the Supreme Court.

We're not experts on government law or unionization, but it sounds suspiciously like the city of Los Angeles chose to draft and enforce new trucking laws without working closely enough with the companies that would end up footing the bill. The good news is that the air in L.A. appears to be a bit clearer, but the bad news is that the truckers appear to be the ones making the sacrifices.

[Source: Los Angeles Times | Image: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty]


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  • 26 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm highly suspect on the way these truckers got that $7 a hour figure. Most people I've known who got into trucking do it for two reasons.
      1) They love to drive and being away from home.
      2) The pay off for being on the road and away from home for so long is to great to pass up.

      Depending on how the city wishes to enforce this law I can see the problem. Now if they put in a clause of "Any new truck must meet X-standards." if so then once the truckers new lease's are up they just jump into new ones. That and I'll assume that these "newer trucks" while cleaner I'm sure will have better gas mileage also.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just let the free market work it out. I don't mean to appear insensitive to the truckers, but if they can do better elsewhere, they should. Few jobs are as portable as that of the truck driver. Supply and demand have a way of leveling things out. There are a lot of regulations I disagree with, but when they come to positive externalities like clean air, they can be good. That's what only governments can do. All this unionizing stuff may be real, but it doesn't sound like the government's doing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Clavius, you have no idea what you are talking about, so just keep your thoughts to yourself. $7 an hour reflects on the owner-operator driving his/her own rig. When you take a $125,000 tractor and haul payload at rates based on the Johnson administration, you get to minimum wage. I used to ride with my dad every summer. When you take 15 minute naps on the steering wheel, that does not make for the 8-hour day you just came from. Divide the pay over the hours spent, and again, you get to $7 an hour.
        The new pollution control kills fuel mileage. I hope you drive past a truck stop soon. You can see how much higher the price of diesel is compared to gas. A truck 5 years ago could reach 6 mpg. Now, with the new pollution crap, they might get 4.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Long distance haulers, yeah - you do get away for days at a time. And their pay rate is decent.

        In context, however, are the short-haul truckers that deliver a container from the port to a local rail yard or warehouse. They're paid like $50 (or less) to do the delivery. Out of that, one is paying for the fuel, the license/insurance, and the upkeep on the rig. What's left is your income.

        4 mpg or less in these rigs, thousands of dollars for license and insurance, and oil changes that are measured by the gallons ... and all that for $50 a trip in which because of port and freeway traffic, makes it hard to do more than a couple a day. Believe me, these guys are NOT raking in any big bucks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is much more like someone who leases a cab than a long-haul trucker. They lease a truck and then hope that they get enough "fares" at the docks to pay their fixed costs. It's all local deliveries, including within the Port sometimes. The number of containers is down, but there are the same number of drivers and their fixed costs went up.
      migarob
      • 4 Years Ago
      test
      • 4 Years Ago
      Tony Valar! What a joke. Keep it up LA!
      • 4 Years Ago
      " it sounds suspiciously like the (insert government agency) chose to draft and enforce new (insert law) without working closely enough with the companies that would end up footing the bill."

      Welcome to government!
      It's not a bug, it's a feature.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We need to pay more for goods. Shipping should be more expensive. Truckers should be paid a living wage.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The reason new trucks get worse mileage is that to clean the particulate filter, a bunch of diesel is dumped into it and burns it out. Thats why all new truck diesels (look at the new ford, dodge, and chevy) get worse mileage then a few years ago.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I love California, with all of their "feel good" laws that aren't properly thought through.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Everyone makes mistakes. When California has an issue you are more likely to hear about it. This is because for example, L.A. County alone has more people in it than 41 states. The city of L.A. alone has more people than 20 states.

        This port is responsible for 20% of the smog in the L.A. basin.

        http://www.cleanports.org/site/c.kjJRJ9MRIsE/b.4147335/k.AC3A/Our_Economy.htm

        Cleaning up this port is a smart, targeted solution. It's attacking the low-hanging fruit, biggest impact with relatively small effort.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tell you what, go live on the downwind side of Terminal Island (Port of LA). It's the busiest port in the US, with massive amounts of truck traffic.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Listen, I sell trucks for a living, no way a driver gets a monthly payment on a new truck for 1,000 a month, more like 3K a month on a new rig... and they cost about 150K total.

      Now on a good used one, you can get them as cheap as $30K with 500K miles on them for 1,000 a month.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Teamsters President James P. Hoffa justifies unionizing the employees, adding that the drivers are "slaves" to their rigs."

      First thought:

      http://www.strategicdc.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/inconceivable.jpg
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm impressed that Mr Shunk comes right out and calls it what is- a corrupt ploy to unionize more truckers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Do that to ship please, the San Pedro/Long Beach port got some really bad air over there.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's already in place. Ships must burn cleaner (than before) fuel within the 20 mile limit of these ports. Difficult to enforce though.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Where did Villaraigosa get the idea? Pillow talk whispered in his ear by some female reporter?

      /only half kidding
      • 4 Years Ago
      These short-haul truckers aren't upset over LA but rather the ATA, who sued to prevent the Clean Trucks Plan from moving forward. The Clean Trucks Plan would require trucking companies to hire drivers as employees, as opposed to calling them "independent contractors", who are currently underpaid per container and are burdened with the cost of leasing and maintaining a truck. Most of these contractors are recent immigrants drowning in debt; they're not like long-haul truckers.

      I live in LA, and I'm behind these truck drivers because they share the same freeways that I use. They rush from the ports to the intermodal facilities, trying to move as many containers as possible, and that simply isn't safe. Also, I breathe the same air as they do. I was talking to folks who live in neighborhoods near the ports and 710 freeway, which connects the ports with the intermodal facilities, and the rates of asthma and lung disease are insane.
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