Fifty-seven congressional representatives are co-sponsoring a bill that would amend federal law to allow ports new authority over trucking.

On July 29, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler introduced the Clean Ports Act of 2010. The current motor carrier statue enacted as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 allows state and local entities to regulate trucking companies for safety-related programs. Several labor and environmental groups support the New York Democrat’s bill.

A temporary injunction is in place against the Port of Los Angeles from enforcing aspects of its concession agreement because of a lawsuit filed by the American Trucking Associations. The most controversial piece of the Los Angeles port’s program is drivers who regularly serve the port must be employees, not owner-operators, of carriers. Backers of this say the only way they will achieve the port’s environmental goals is through barring owner-operators from regular port service.

Nadler’s office stated this court injunction also prevents Los Angeles from placing the job of upgrading and properly maintaining trucks on motor carriers rather than drivers, which “threatens the efficacy of the entire clean truck program.”

The ATA supports the port’s environmental standards, but has disagreed with the employee requirement.

Los Angeles’ sister port of Long Beach instituted the same Clean Truck Program and emissions standard, minus the employee requirement. In January, Long Beach announced it had met its clean air goals nearly two years ahead of schedule.

Ports on every U.S. coast have said they want programs similar to the Los Angeles plan, including Oakland. Port of Oakland’s economic impact analysis of such a program, conducted by the firm Beacon Economics, said “the majority of truckers serving the port are independent owner-operators who do not wish to become employee drivers.”  It noted further that “independent owner-operators and employee driver earnings are comparable, and significantly higher than non-drayage truck driver earnings.”

The Los Angeles port has said it will allow a day-pass program for owner-operators who infrequently serve the port.