Drayage truckers are protesting at the Port of Oakland Wednesday over the cost of complying with clean air regulations and congestion.
A group called the Port of Oakland Truckers Association said it is concerned that as many as 800 drivers may not be able to work at the port after Jan. 1 because of California clean air regulations that will require them to have trucks with 2008 or newer engines. There were similar protests in August and October by truck drivers at the port.
The Associated Press reported that picketing had begun at marine terminals this morning.
Robert Bernardo, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, said the port was “fully prepared” for protests.
“We are prepared to keep the port tomorrow open while protecting free speech rights,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We have to allow the flow of commerce. We cannot have protesters and picketers interfere with the flow of workers and cargo through our marine terminal gates because it affects the 73,000 jobs we generate in the region.”
He estimated about 2,000 truckers visit the port daily.
Chris Lytle, executive director of the port, and other members of the port staff have met with terminal operators and trucking companies to discuss making terminals more efficient and encouraging them to “take a fresh look at compensation structures for truckers in light of the high cost of trucking port cargo,” said Bernardo.
In an interview Tuesday, Frank Adams, a spokesman for the group, said the truckers have four major demands.
- They are seeking an extension of one year in a requirement by the California Air Resources Board that truckers have model 2008 or newer engines, or funding in the amount of $25,000 per truck to help pay for the cost of becoming compliant with CARB regulations. He estimated that 800 of 3,600 truckers who work at the port could be put out of work if the regulation is not modified. He also complained that money that was originally made available for grants for truckers was being used for non-drayage drivers.
- He said they want the implementation of a “Green Emissions” fee of $50 per container to help drivers pay for upgrading their and maintaining their vehicles.
- The truckers are also asking for a congestion fee of $50 per hour whenever a truck waits in excess of two hours to pick up a load. Adams contended that while the port is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., between lunch and work breaks, the terminal is only really operating five hours or six hours per day. Adams said the trucker group would like the fee to be paid directly by the steamship lines and trucking companies to put a financial burden directly on them that will make them more efficient. “We don’t want the money — we want to come in and get out. It takes us four to six hours right now just to get a load, and we are getting paid $50 a load. You do the math.”
- He said drivers also want a significant increase in the compensation they receive from trucking companies, saying that 10 years ago they were receiving $44-$47 and $50 per load today at a time when fuel costs have tripled.
In a blog entry
, the trucker association also calls for "an end to any and all retribution against our members including dropping the injunctions, and any other legal proceedings directed toward our members.”
In response to the trucker group, the Port of Oakland pointed to an op-ed written by Lytle and Sandre Swanson
, the deputy mayor of Oakland that appeared in the Contra Costa Times
The op-ed said state and federal agencies have allowed multiple deadline extensions to truckers and are not offering more.
“The port and other regional and state agencies have made available $38 million in funding to help truckers achieve these upgrades, and most of them have upgraded already,“ they wrote. “Now a few hundred truckers are announcing illegal work stoppage plans that would hurt the other estimated 85 percent of truck owners at the port who have already invested in upgrading their rigs. Those who made the upgrades must be able to work to pay off that investment”
Lytle and Swanson said:
- “The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is ready to provide grants to replace as many as 100 trucks for on-road service." (Trucks not serving ports have a few more years to comply with the latest clean air rules).
- “The California Air Resources Board is offering loan guarantees for truckers who need financial assistance to upgrade their trucks."
- “Some shipping companies have increased fees and payments to help pay for upgrades. We are asking the industry to continue to negotiate."
- “And we have worked to reduce truck turnaround times so that there are less emissions from idling trucks.”
They contended that a “stoppage would also slow commerce and damage perishable goods for shippers who employ thousands of people. And it would hurt the port itself, which is working to grow economic opportunities for the whole region. We will continue to look for more options to help, but we cannot allow illegal work blockages at the port. Together, we hope we can resolve these issues for the good of all.”