A Victory at the Port of Los Angeles: Clean trucks and environmental justice
On Monday a federal judge ruled in favor of environmental justice and labor rights by refusing to stop the Clean Truck Program, which was passed earlier this year by the Port of Los Angeles and the L.A. city council. The program was being challenged by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents trucking companies.
It is no surprise that the ATA would oppose the Clean Truck Program, which aims to cut harmful diesel emissions by immediately banning dirty diesel trucks and requiring the cleanest truck technology by 2012. The program shifts the costs associated with diesel emissions onto the trucking companies and away from truck drivers and the communities that surround the ports.
The ATA argued that the program would place an unconstitutional and unfair economic burden on port truckers. In fact, the burden is shifted away from individual truckers and onto the trucking companies, who will then shift the burden onto major retailers and importers. The judge used common sense and said, “The balance of hardships and the public interest tip decidedly in favor of denying the injunction.” These hardships include increased chances of asthma, cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart disease in those living in the communities that are subject to harmful diesel truck emissions. Other hardships are associated with the fact that before the Clean Truck Program truck drivers were classified at independent contractors. This meant that drivers could not organize to form unions and that they were responsible for the costs of truck maintenance and fuel, driving down the wages of drivers.
The Port of Los Angeles wisely decided that independent truck drivers, who make about $29,000 after expenses, would not have the money necessary to update and maintain their trucks to comply with new emissions standards. Therefore, the trucking companies, if they wanted to do business at the port, would have to utilize employee drivers and would have to pay the cost of updating their trucks.
The judge in this case has set a good precedent. Now that the program has withheld its first legal challenge, other ports around the country should begin to look into implementing similar programs.