On March 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in its lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach concession plans. The three-judge panel ruled unanimously to remand the case to the U.S. District Court and indicated that the judge should grant the ATA an injunction against all or part of the concession plans. 

"In short, motor carriers should not be required to adhere to the various unconstitutional provisions in the Ports' (concession) agreements, and are likely to suffer irrevocably if forced to do that or give up their businesses," the court's opinion said. ATA had not challenged the ports' Clean Truck Program, which bans older trucks and uses a container fee to subsidize the purchase of newer, cleaner trucks. 

"We are extremely pleased with the decision," says Robert Digges Jr., ATA vice president and chief counsel. "The judges understood that most of the elements of the plans are not about safety, but rather are a regulatory effort by the ports to create what they believe would be a more efficient drayage system." 

As of Oct. 1, 2008, any motor carrier out of compliance with a port's concession agreement had been barred from entering that port, a situation that caused motor carriers to suffer both short and long-term capital losses and injuries to business goodwill.

The Court of Appeals' instructions to the district court made clear that many elements of the concession plans must be enjoined, but leaves it to the district court as to whether the entire concession plans should be halted. The Court of Appeals indicated one aspect that must be enjoined is the Port of Los Angeles' ban on owner-operators. "That requirement is dead," said Curtis Whalen, executive director of the Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference (IMCC) of the ATA. The Port of Long Beach concession plan did not ban owner-operators.

Digges said ATA will work expeditiously with the district court to structure an injunction that implements the decision and protects the interests of the motor carrier industry. The Court of Appeals decision said it would not entertain any petition for rehearing, although the ports could appeal to the Supreme Court.

Click here to see the Courts' ruling in the lawsuit against the Ports.