Federal Preemption of Local Air Regs — American Trucking Association v. City of Los Angeles, No. 10-56465 (9th Cir. September 26, 2011)

Summary: An attempt by the Port of Los Angeles to regulate truck emissions and labor conditions was preempted by the FAAA.

Background: The Port of Los Angeles encountered resistance from environmental and community groups when it tried to expand its cargo terminal facilities to accommodate more and larger ships. The opposition argued that the expansion of the port would generate air pollution. In 2002 a California court issued an injunction against any business expansion. In order to appease the opposition, the Port adopted a “Clean Truck Program” in which the types and age of trucks entering the Port were restricted and stiff fees were imposed on terminal operators who shipped goods on non-compliant trucks. In addition, the Clean Truck Program required concessionaires to stop using independent owner-operators, imposed maintenance requirements on the trucks, addressed certain off-street parking issues, required placards to be attached to all trucks when in the Port with a number for the public to call if excess emissions were suspected, required concessionaires to demonstrate the financial capability to perform maintenance on the trucks, and imposed a one-time fee of $2,500.

The American Trucking Association and other interested parties filed numerous challenges to the Clean Truck Program, including a preemption argument that the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAA Act), 49 U.S.C. § 14501 et seq. prevents States from undermining federal deregulation of interstate trucking. The FAAA Act provides as a “general rule” that “a State [or] political subdivision of a State may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier with respect to the transportation of property.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).

The Ninth Circuit concluded that the financial capability provision, maintenance provision, off-street parking, and placard provisions were all adopted to address specific proprietary concerns faced by the Port and did not seek to affect unrelated conduct by third parties. However, the Circuit Court did find that the phase-out of owner-operators was really intended to increase wages for drivers. Thus, it was intended to affect the conduct of third parties involved in interstate commerce (trucking companies and owner-operators) and held that the provision violated the FAAA.

— James Pray

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About James Pray

Attorney with BrownWinick Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa.
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