As Congress Debates Transportation Bill, New Study on Port Trucking Shows Need For New Regulations For Clean Air, Worker Safety, And Economic Stability
WASHINGTON - As the United States Congress considers the Surface Transportation
Authorization Act of 2009, which aims to establish national regulatory
reforms for American ground transportation, a newly published study
details the widespread failures of port trucking deregulation. Port Trucking Down the Low Road: A Sad Story of Deregulation,
published by Demos, a national public policy research center,
chronicles the industry's downslide since the Federal Motor Carrier Act
The report's release arrives on the eve of the Oakland Port
Commission¹s vote on a resolution calling on Congress to modernize
transportation policy so that America's Port Commissions have the legal
authority to set and enforce trucking industry standards to make goods
movement sustainable for local communities and workers. The resolution
aims to allow ports to emulate the success of the LA Clean Trucks
Program, which has already reduced diesel emissions by removing
thousands of dirty trucks from service, replacing them with
clean-burning and alternative fuel vehicles.
Port Trucking Down the Low Road, authored for Demos' Project on Regulation
by David Bensman, Professor of Labor Studies and Employer Relations at
Rutgers University, provides vast evidence of the dangerous
consequences of port trucking deregulation, highlighting the need for
broad industry reform and a new set of regulatory protections for
workers, the environment, public health and the economy.
"Port trucking carries 80 percent of shipping containers
between ports, warehouses and distribution centers. It is an essential
cog in the global trade system that, because of deregulation, now
suffers from excessive and destructive competition that has taken its
toll," said Bensman. "Because of deregulation, the national freight
moving industry is broken: Highway travel is more hazardous,
contributes to our environmental crisis, degrades the quality of port
truck driver jobs, shifts enormous costs onto the public, and creates,
overall, a highly inefficient logistics and goods movement system."
Robert Kuttner, a Distinguished Fellow at Demos who also directs the Demos Project on Regulation stated,
"With public support from members of the U.S. Congress,
coalitions of trade unionists, community groups, environmentalists, and
progressive local mayors have reached consensus on viable solutions and
are taking steps to reduce emissions in ports throughout the country.
Because ports play a central role in implementing national security
goals and trucking deregulation was legislated nationally, fully
reversing three decades of damage will require an act of Congress."
Key findings of the report include:
- Highway travel has become more hazardous since port trucking
deregulation: 77.8 percent of New Jersey port truck drivers reported
receiving an unsafe chassis in the last 12 months; on average, 40
percent of containers at Miami's port were overweight in 2006, and in
some weeks that figure reached 70 percent.
- The port trucking system has not kept pace with advances in clean
truck technologies, creating an increasing environmental crisis: Diesel
emissions, especially from older trucks, cause significant harmful
health impacts, releasing particles into the air that are carcinogenic
and dangerous to the environment and the health of nearby residents.
- The quality of jobs for port truck drivers has decreased
substantially: Drivers are on the job five days a week, from 10 to 12
hours a day, earning an average annual income of $28,000 in 2008. As
"independent contractors", they do not receive health care or any
contributions to a retirement fund and are responsible for all
collateral maintenance, taxes, insurance and other costs.
- Deregulation has shifted significant costs to the public, costs
previously shouldered by the shipping industry: Diesel emissions cause
significant harmful health impacts, estimated by one study to cost the
state of California $20 billion annually. More than 25 percent of New
Jersey port drivers surveyed rely on public clinics or emergency rooms
for health care.
- The goods movement system in the U.S. has become increasingly
inefficient. Business logistics expenses for the port trucking industry
increased for a fourth straight year in 2007, by $91 billion over the
2006 total. The system does not incentivize warehouse companies to
build facilities closer to ports or distribution centers, and a poor
communications infrastructure hinders incoming and outgoing container
- The failure of the deregulated port trucking system has also been
recognized by three separate North American port agencies that have
taken some action to mitigate the problems caused by the Federal Motor
Carrier Act of 1980.
Port Trucking Down the Low Road includes a series of reforms and policy recommendations, including:
- Improve quality of trucking jobs by cracking down on employer abuse
of misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors in
order to avoid compliance with employment laws;
- Improve air quality and reduce public health hazards and associated
costs by establishing stricter federal diesel emission standards;
- Protect the driving public by enforcing highway safety standards,
including weight restrictions and the new 2008 chassis standards for
"As Bensman demonstrates, re-regulating the terms of port
trucking could reverse the vicious circle. Raising standards and
certifying only carriers that met them could turn the drivers back into
regular employees and create incentives for carriers to modernize their
equipment," said Kuttner.
David Bensman added that "as Congress and the Obama Administration
debate the timing and contours of updating our nation's laws and
policies governing goods movement, this new study identifies key areas
in desperate need of regulatory reform to ensure we create a modern,
efficient, sustainable, and equitable freight transportation system for
the 21st century."
A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.