Searchable Goods Movement Timeline

Welcome to the METRANS Goods Movement Timeline. This is a searchable timeline of activities tied to goods movement, logistics and international trade based upon items from the popular press.

Given our location and the importance of this region as an international trade gateway, many of the entries pertain to Southern California. We do however draw from state and national press as well. Some articles' links may have expired, or you may have to pay a fee or register on the Web site where they originally appeared to access the complete article. Our goal however is to provide the researcher with enough information to track significant events over time as they have occurred in key areas like legislation, finance, and security.

This timeline grew out of timelines initially developed for METRANS research projects in the area of goods movement. Earlier entries (before 2005) were therefore not prepared with a searchable database in mind and will be less detailed. We hope, however, that they remain a useful resource.

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Oct 12, 2017

Doubts about NAFTA talks grow

Print Edition

Trump alludes to U.S. withdrawal from pact, plans tough proposals.

SOPHIE TRUDEAU, left, and her husband, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meet with President Trump and Melania Trump at the White House while talks among the U.S., Canada and Mexico take place. ( Pool photo/Getty Images)

By Don Lee

ARLINGTON, Va. — Negotiations to remake the North American Free Trade Agreement resumed Wednesday amid increasing concerns of a breakdown, with President Trump continuing to threaten to withdraw from the pact and the administration planning to push several contentious proposals across the table over the next few days.

Concerns were apparent as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Trump in Washington while trade negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico gathered here on the other side of the Potomac River. As Trump talked about the possibility of not reaching an agreement on NAFTA — saying he could see the U.S. and Canada doing a bilateral deal to replace the pact — Trudeau maintained a straight face.

Asked whether he would be ready to sign a deal only with the U.S., Trudeau answered in French: “We’re negotiating at the moment.”

In three earlier rounds of NAFTA talks, negotiators found common ground on customs and trade facilitation, e-commerce rules and other less-controversial matters that would update the 23-year-old agreement.

But with a goal of wrapping up negotiations by the end of the year, U.S. officials are now expected to get to the crux of the talks with proposals that they see as central to advancing Trump’s “America first” agenda, even though some of those ideas are fiercely opposed by not only Mexico and Canada, but also by U.S. business interests.

One proposal would allow NAFTA to expire after five years unless all three countries agree to renew it, according to people who have been briefed by U.S. trade officials.

The so-called sunset provision is ostensibly aimed at giving the administration a way out, or at least greater leverage, should there be little or no improvement in the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico or Canada — something that Trump has persistently regarded as the measuring stick of whether trade agreements are working, despite widespread criticism from economists who say such thinking is flawed .

Critics of a sunset clause include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose leader, Thomas Donohue, described it as one of “several poison pill proposals ... that could doom the entire deal.”

“We all know that certainty and stability are crucial to successful trade relationships — and necessary to foster a pro-investment environment that drives economic growth and job creation,” Donohue said in a particularly forceful speech Tuesday in Mexico City. “This clause would achieve the opposite effect.”

“We’ve reached a critical moment,” he added. “The chamber has had no choice but to ring the alarm bells.”

The U.S. auto industry, in particular, has ramped up lobbying efforts in recent days. While Trump has cast himself as a champion of U.S. manufacturing, the domestic car industry fears that the administration’s overhaul of NAFTA could wreck the complex, integrated North American supply chain that has taken decades to develop.

Under current NAFTA rules, vehicles that are manufactured with at least 62.5% of contents from any combination of the three countries can be shipped from one NAFTA nation to another without paying duties.

Trump’s trade officials want to raise that origin-of-content requirement to as much as 85%, which would make it more costly for U.S. car firms to source parts from non-NAFTA countries. But, more significantly, U.S. negotiators are expected to seek a new requirement that 50% of the contents of autos are made in the U.S. before those goods can be shipped across North American borders without duties.

Opponents of a U.S.-specific content clause argue that such a provision is contrary to a trade agreement whose basis is the North American regional economy, not any individual country. On top of that, U.S. auto executives say that carrying out that mandate would be a bureaucratic nightmare and costly, ultimately making cars more expensive for consumers.

Mexican officials, in particular, have recoiled at a country-specific rule of origin as their nation has attracted many auto parts and assembly operations in recent years that employ hundreds of thousands of workers.

Other thorny issues that are likely to come up in this fourth round of talks include a U.S. proposal to weaken the right of private investors and companies to sue governments — a provision that has strong backing from organized labor and civil society groups.

The Trump administration also wants to eliminate a NAFTA chapter that has allowed Mexico and Canada, in particular, to contest U.S. anti-dumping and government-subsidy tariff decisions by turning to a NAFTA panel of judges.

U.S. trade officials have told outside advisors that they are planning seven rounds of talks before Christmas. Their hope is to have a deal in principle in place by the end of the year, or early 2018 at the latest, to avoid political complications in Mexico’s presidential vote in the summer and the U.S. midterm elections later in the fall.

But most trade experts doubt they can meet such an aggressive timetable. And in a signal anticipating the challenges ahead, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that this latest round would be extended through next Tuesday, two more days than originally planned.

Print Edition

Trump alludes to U.S. withdrawal from pact, plans tough proposals.

SOPHIE TRUDEAU, left, and her husband, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meet with President Trump and Melania Trump at the White House while talks among the U.S., Canada and Mexico take place. ( Pool photo/Getty Images)

By Don Lee

Oct 04, 2017

NY-NJ terminal to roll out pilot truck appointment system

Online Edition

A pilot program for the first truck appointment system in a terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey will begin Oct. 13, enacting a much-discussed — and somewhat delayed — measure that has divided truckers and port leaders but is key to reducing sporadic congestion.

The system, at Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, will require truckers to make a reservation to deliver or pick up a container — between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., initially — on weekdays. Trucks can arrive without an appointment for the rest of the day, but the terminal expects to gradually increase the time in which reservations are required.

The system, similar versions of which are in ports across the United States, is designed to smooth truck arrivals and avoid sudden bunches of trucks arriving all at one time, which can cause congestion and backups, and place stress on the terminal’s resources, workforce, and equipment. Global Container Terminal officials have been testing the system in recent weeks to get it as ready as possible for the start of the pilot program.

The terminal, in a message to truckers earlier in the week, said, “this new system will help reduce turn-time for motor carriers visiting the terminal and add a level of consistency to each trip.” The message included a lengthy explanation of how the system would work, and said the terminal is aiming for a turn time of 45 minutes and a “dual transaction” time of 60 minutes.

John Nardi, co-chairman of the port’s Council on Port Performance, welcomed the initiative, which his council had call for.

“The days of free flow receiving delivery of cargo are coming to an end,” he said. “We need the whole supply chain to be more coordinated.”

“The (GCT) took a very responsible path for the implementation, where they included all the interested parties, and they wanted to make sure (that) what they implemented works,” he said. “So they took their time about it.” 

The system is one of three measures seen by leaders in the Port of New York and New Jersey as key to improving the flow of trucks and containers through the port and resolving the sporadic congestion and delays that have plagued the ports in recent years. The other two measures are extended terminal gate hours and a chassis pool.

The port’s Council on Port Performance in June 2014 recommended a version of the appointment system as one of 23 measures that could improve the service of the port. At the time, it was known as a truck management system, in which trucks advised terminals of their pending arrival. The task force stopped short of recommending an appointment system, which was vigorously opposed by trucking leaders because chassis shortages and delays at terminals might make it impossible for truckers to meet appointment windows. 

Still, GCT said in December 2014 that it expected to have a pilot appointment system up and running in the first half of the following year, a target date that has since been revised several times.

“This is a major step forward in making the port big ship ready and a recommendation that’s finally coming to fruition after years of discussion and debate,” said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He said an appointment system will be “critical to the port’s ability to efficiently handle new-Panamax ships now calling on the Port of New York and New Jersey.”

Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, declined to comment on the system until he had discussed it with the organization’s board next week.

GCT did not respond to a request for comment.

Support for appointment systems has been growing in various ports, as they wrestle with how to handle increased container volumes and the sudden surges in activity expected to come with the shift to larger ships, but also with few vessel visits.

On the Gulf Coast, New Orleans has one in place, and on the East Coast, Virginia tested one last year. On the West Coast, 10 of the 13 container terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operate appointment systems, as does the Port of Oakland, which launched one in June.

In the Port of New York and New Jersey, truckers must make a reservation through an online portal. They will book a one-hour timeslot, with a 30-minute lead time at the start and finish of the slot, effectively giving them two hours to fulfill the reservation.

If a trucker misses a previously booked reservation, “the terminal will indeed be monitoring and tracking 'MISSED' reservations and eventually enforce some rules concerning this,” the message said.

To make the reservation, truckers will need certain information. To return an empty container, a trucker will need the container line and the equipment size/type plus the truck license plate number. To pick up an empty container, the trucker will need the booking number plus the truck license plate number. To deliver a container for export, the trucker will need the container number, booking number, and the truck license plate number; and to pick up an imported container the trucker will need the container number and the truck license plate number.

The terminal's message noted that the system was created and funded by the port’s Sustainable Terminal Services Agreement Members, which include all the terminals in the port.

“At this point, GCT Bayonne will be the first to implement but others have expressed interest in implementing the system in the near future,” the message said.

Online Edition

A pilot program for the first truck appointment system in a terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey will begin Oct. 13, enacting a much-discussed — and somewhat delayed — measure that has divided truckers and port leaders but is key to reducing sporadic congestion.

Sep 21, 2017

Freight tax for US infrastructure projects floated again

Online Edition

LONG BEACH — The federal gasoline tax has lost much of its effectiveness for funding freight transportation projects, and US Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., is suggesting again that a tax on surface freight transportation is needed if the country is to meet its huge infrastructure development needs.

Lowenthal, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, represents the district in which the Port of Long Beach is located. He has introduced the National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, which would impose a 1 percent excise tax on ground transportation of freight. The bill, which includes provisions for a grant program, would deposit all revenue into a freight trust fund, and a lock-box feature would ensure the money is used only for designated purposes for freight moving by truck and rail.

Past attempts by Lowenthal to get Congress on board have failed. There is also reluctance among shippers and transport providers to raise freight rates and trust the money collected is used wisely and fairly.

According to a much-cited study by the American Society of Civil Engineers, if not addressed by 2025, the funding gap between what is collected in federal programs such as the federal fuel tax and what is needed to repair and expand surface transportation infrastructure will reduce the gross domestic product by about $4 trillion and will cost the economy 2.5 million jobs.

Lowenthal told the annual Intermodal Association of North America conference in Long Beach this week that the effectiveness of the fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel, which have not been been raised since 1993, are certain to erode further as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and as inflation rises. According to the ASCE report, inflation since 1993 has increased 64.4 percent.

A permanent source of funding that generates increased revenue as the value of surface freight increases will benefit the trucking, rail, and intermodal industries, Lowenthal said. “I think we are moving toward user fees. This is a national approach,” he said.

While carriers may support user fees designated exclusively for transportation projects, the voices of beneficial cargo owners must also be heard. BCOs sometimes complain that fees such as the PierPass extended gate fee do not always produce the benefits promised. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said fees to support infrastructure development are a continuing source of discussion at the port’s supply-chain optimization meetings with stakeholders. So far, the discussions have centered upon local, project-specific fees. “There’s much more to discuss in this area. It’s not going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

A national discussion is timely, though, as the freight transportation industry attempts to ascertain where the Trump administration is headed with its infrastructure development initiative. “There hasn’t been a lot of information on what this administration is proposing,” said attorney Shant Boyajian, who represents transportation project sponsors in Washington.

What is known so far, though, is that President Trump supports efforts and legislation that appeal to the base that got him elected. Those voters are concentrated in low-population areas, while the types of infrastructure projects that are needed for freight transportation are mostly in urban areas and states that did not vote for him, said Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Therefore, would the administration consider much-needed improvements to the I-710 Freeway that serves the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex to be a project of national significance, he asked. Almost 40 percent of US containerized imports moves through the largest US port complex.

There is widespread agreement in the freight transportation industry that US infrastructure is in critical need of modernization. Walter Kemmsies, managing director, economist, and chief strategist at Jones Lang LaSalle, said the needs are especially evident for infrastructure that serves exports. “The US is the only country in the world that signed trade agreements and then built infrastructure to support imports,” he said.

Because agricultural products are some of the most important US exports, and they originate in rural areas, one approach to building infrastructure for exports is to develop more inland ports, such as the facility in Greer, South Carolina. Inland ports provide opportunities for matchbacks in which import containers with consumer merchandise can be unloaded and refilled with commodity exports generated in the region, Kemmsies said.

Boyajian urged the freight transportation community to rally behind efforts to prioritize and fund infrastructure projects developed outside of the existing funding processes such as the federal gas tax to ensure that winning projects are truly of national significance for the movement of freight. Lowenthal added that Congress must ensure that infrastructure funding and grant programs are developed in a bipartisan way. He urged Congress to move quickly. ”Like addressing climate change, time is not on our side,” he said.

LONG BEACH — The federal gasoline tax has lost much of its effectiveness for funding freight transportation projects, and US Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., is suggesting again that a tax on surface freight transportation is needed if the country is to meet its huge infrastructure development needs. Lowenthal, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, represents the district in which the Port of Long Beach is located. He has introduced the National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, which would impose a 1 percent excise tax on ground transportation of freight. The bill, which includes provisions for a grant program, would deposit all revenue into a freight trust fund, and a lock-box feature would ensure the money is used only for designated purposes for freight moving by truck and rail. Past attempts by Lowenthal to get Congress on board have failed. There is also reluctance among shippers and transport providers to raise freight rates and trust the money collected is used wisely and fairly. According to a much-cited study by the American Society of Civil Engineers, if not addressed by 2025, the funding gap between what is collected in federal programs such as the federal fuel tax and what is needed to repair and expand surface transportation infrastructure will reduce the gross domestic product by about $4 trillion and will cost the economy 2.5 million jobs. Lowenthal told the annual Intermodal Association of North America conference in Long Beach this week that the effectiveness of the fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel, which have not been been raised since 1993, are certain to erode further as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and as inflation rises. According to the ASCE report, inflation since 1993 has increased 64.4 percent. A permanent source of funding that generates increased revenue as the value of surface freight increases will benefit the trucking, rail, and intermodal industries, Lowenthal said. “I think we are moving toward user fees. This is a national approach,” he said. While carriers may support user fees designated exclusively for transportation projects, the voices of beneficial cargo owners must also be heard. BCOs sometimes complain that fees such as the PierPass extended gate fee do not always produce the benefits promised. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said fees to support infrastructure development are a continuing source of discussion at the port’s supply-chain optimization meetings with stakeholders. So far, the discussions have centered upon local, project-specific fees. “There’s much more to discuss in this area. It’s not going to happen tomorrow,” he said. A national discussion is timely, though, as the freight transportation industry attempts to ascertain where the Trump administration is headed with its infrastructure development initiative. “There hasn’t been a lot of information on what this administration is proposing,” said attorney Shant Boyajian, who represents transportation project sponsors in Washington. What is known so far, though, is that President Trump supports efforts and legislation that appeal to the base that got him elected. Those voters are concentrated in low-population areas, while the types of infrastructure projects that are needed for freight transportation are mostly in urban areas and states that did not vote for him, said Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Therefore, would the administration consider much-needed improvements to the I-710 Freeway that serves the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex to be a project of national significance, he asked. Almost 40 percent of US containerized imports moves through the largest US port complex. There is widespread agreement in the freight transportation industry that US infrastructure is in critical need of modernization. Walter Kemmsies, managing director, economist, and chief strategist at Jones Lang LaSalle, said the needs are especially evident for infrastructure that serves exports. “The US is the only country in the world that signed trade agreements and then built infrastructure to support imports,” he said. Because agricultural products are some of the most important US exports, and they originate in rural areas, one approach to building infrastructure for exports is to develop more inland ports, such as the facility in Greer, South Carolina. Inland ports provide opportunities for matchbacks in which import containers with consumer merchandise can be unloaded and refilled with commodity exports generated in the region, Kemmsies said. Boyajian urged the freight transportation community to rally behind efforts to prioritize and fund infrastructure projects developed outside of the existing funding processes such as the federal gas tax to ensure that winning projects are truly of national significance for the movement of freight. Lowenthal added that Congress must ensure that infrastructure funding and grant programs are developed in a bipartisan way. He urged Congress to move quickly. ”Like addressing climate change, time is not on our side,” he said.

Online Edition

LONG BEACH — The federal gasoline tax has lost much of its effectiveness for funding freight transportation projects, and US Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., is suggesting again that a tax on surface freight transportation is needed if the country is to meet its huge infrastructure development needs.

Sep 21, 2017

Clean-air solution has already arrived at Long Beach, L.A. ports: Guest commentary

Online Edition

Have you seen all those electric tractor trailers down at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles lately? If you haven’t, you’re not alone — because they don’t exist.

Not only are port communities being promised solutions that currently don’t exist. They are being asked to trade off a generation of clean air improvements on a promise of a technology that might or might not be available someday.

Finding a way to rapidly upgrade the fleet of port trucks is the here-and-now solution.

Clean diesel technology offers an answer, with immediate, cost-effective NOx and particulate-matter emission reductions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Port Strategy Assessment, replacing just one older Class 8 dray truck with a clean diesel model can reduce emissions by 1,282 lbs.

This solution to reducing air pollution from trucks is what the Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners should be considering when they meet in November to give final approval to an update of the Clean Air Action Plan they adopted in 2006. The public review and comment period ended this month.

The harbor commissioners are wrestling with ways to cut air pollution to zero and near-zero emission levels by 2035 from port-related sources: ships, trucks, trains, harbor craft and cargo-handling equipment

One of the strategies being considered for trucks is converting the ports’ huge truck fleet from diesel to zero-emission technologies, such as renewable natural gas. But another alternative — clean diesel technology — is available now.

Nationwide, between 2011 and 2016, new-generation diesel commercial vehicles reduced 43 million tons of CO2, eliminated 21 million tons of NOx and eradicated 1.2 million tons of particulate matter.

Despite the obvious benefits, only about a quarter of California’s heavy-duty trucking fleet is equipped with the latest clean diesel technology. In fact, California — which boasts three of the nation’s “mega ports” and is home to the largest truck fleet in the United States — ranks 47th among the 50 states.

When at least 75 percent of port-related freight movements involve a segment by truck, failing to use the cleanest diesel trucking option available means a large fleet of older, pollution-prone trucks remain in service.

We’ve got to get realistic with the policies and approaches on reducing port emissions. The majority of truckers serving the ports are independent owner-operators. For them, their truck is their livelihood, and, while they would like to have a new vehicle, few can afford a better used truck. While electric drive sounds good, it’s not realistic today beyond a handful of demonstration projects. That’s not to say it might not someday become mainstream, but that day is not today.

When it comes to powering heavy things that move, like trucks, trains, ships and equipment, no other fuel source beats the power density, portability and availability of clean diesel. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation recognize that investing in near-zero emissions, clean diesel technology represents the most cost-effective investment strategy to reduce emissions.

There is no reason port communities should wait for cleaner air. They can have it now.

Online Edition

Have you seen all those electric tractor trailers down at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles lately? If you haven’t, you’re not alone — because they don’t exist.

Not only are port communities being promised solutions that currently don’t exist. They are being asked to trade off a generation of clean air improvements on a promise of a technology that might or might not be available someday.

Finding a way to rapidly upgrade the fleet of port trucks is the here-and-now solution.

Aug 28, 2017

How should Los Angeles and Long Beach ports clean the air?

Online Edition

The mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach have promised to get to near zero emissions at the nation’s busiest port complex – but just how to achieve that ambitious goal is still being debated.

Now the public will get a chance to weigh in.

On Wednesday, port officials will hold one of the few public meetings before a rare joint meeting of the two commissions that run the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. A vote on the final draft of a $14 billion clean air plan will take place in November.

The plan seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions and rid the port hub of harmful diesel pollutants. But it falls short of creating a set goal to further reduce diesel particulate matter, sulfur oxides or nitrogen oxides beyond those made in its 2010 plan. Instead, it relies on new, clean-burning technology to further slash emissions.

By 2035, for example, big-rig drivers picking up cargo at the port must meet zero-emission goals or will be forced to pay fees.

The shift to cleaner burning technology is aimed at eliminating the toxins at the port complex, which remains the single largest stationary polluter in Southern California.

Environmentalists want to see more aggressive actions to cut toxic emissions, while truckers, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a trade group representing terminal operators, and others in the industry believe the cost to private companies could put many out of business and hamper the local economy.

Port officials estimate that converting the truck fleet to zero-emissions would cost up to $8.2 billion. Replacing diesel cargo-handling equipment on the docks with clean-burning equipment carries a $2.1 billion pricetag. And another $2.2 billion would have to be spent on infrastructure alone to support the upgraded equipment.

Port officials are looking to state and federal officials to help offset the cost, but much of the burden could land on private companies and investors.

With expenses so high, PSMA warns that the high-costs will push cargo away from the West Coast – where about 40 percent of the nation’s imports are brought in. Already the ports have lost market share to East Coast and Gulf Coast port.

The meeting on Wednesday is at 5 p.m. at Banning’s landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington.

Written comments can also be submitted to caap@cleanairactionplan.org/. The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. on Sept. 18.

Online Edition

The mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach have promised to get to near zero emissions at the nation’s busiest port complex – but just how to achieve that ambitious goal is still being debated.

Now the public will get a chance to weigh in.

On Wednesday, port officials will hold one of the few public meetings before a rare joint meeting of the two commissions that run the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. A vote on the final draft of a $14 billion clean air plan will take place in November.

Sep 07, 2017

Board approves 10-year Port of Los Angeles labor agreement

Online Edition

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a 10-year labor agreement today that aims for the Port of Los Angeles to continue hiring workers from the harbor area and high-unemployment communities in the city.

The Project Labor Agreement between the port and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council establishes wages, benefits and rules for employees working on designated port projects while guaranteeing they will earn prevailing wages outlined in the bargaining agreements of all participating unions.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

“The men and women who clock in every day at the Port of Los Angeles are a driving force in the global economy,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “This Project Labor Agreement will create new career opportunities that Angelenos deserve, and bring stability to operations as we invest billions in infrastructure that will define the future of the port.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the port must grant almost a third of the jobs generated by most major construction projects to residents of the harbor area and high-unemployment communities in L.A.

“This PLA builds on the previous five-year agreement that benefited working families in the harbor area and helped Los Angeles remain one of the top ports in the world,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. “I’m proud to say we are extending this agreement and doubling its term to 10 years. This is a huge vote of confidence in the men and women of our affiliated local unions.”

According to the port, the new PLA covers 38 planned and proposed infrastructure projects totaling around $780 million, with more projects likely to be added.

Under the prior agreement, the port completed 20 major construction projects and has six remaining, for a total investment of $848 million.

“Skilled workers and apprentices from our own communities provided approximately one third of labor to build these projects,” said Port Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We’re eager to keep that momentum going so the Port of Los Angeles remains a modern, competitive and sustainable gateway that strengthens our communities while powering the nation’s economy.”

Online Edition

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a 10-year labor agreement today that aims for the Port of Los Angeles to continue hiring workers from the harbor area and high-unemployment communities in the city.

Sep 08, 2017

ILWU casuals protest outside union hall in Wilmington, demanding more work, benefits

Online Edition

Dozens of part-time dockworkers who have been waiting for years to land a full-time job protested outside their Wilmington union hall Friday, demanding they be given benefits and more work.

“They are frustrated,” said Paul Trani, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 63, representing marine clerks. “They have been sacrificing their family. Many have two jobs.”

It was unclear how many casuals demonstrated. Unconfirmed reports put the number at 300 Friday morning, with another gathering slated for Friday afternoon.

Officials from three ILWU locals — Locals 63, 13 and 94 — issued a joint statement Friday saying that they did not condone the action.

“As always, Locals 13, 63 and 94 are committed to fill all labor needed for the movement of cargo in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” the brief statement said.

More than 5,000 casuals pick up intermittent work along the docks at a dispatch center in Wilmington. The workers have been preselected in a random lottery, and once they build up enough seniority, they can qualify to pick up full-time work. But those rolls are rarely opened, and many part-timers have been waiting for more than a decade to land a gig.

One woman, who did not want to give her name, said she is a 35-year-old mother who has worked on the docks for 14 years and deserves to have job security and benefits.

Earlier this year, the Pacific Maritime Association, representing shippers and terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with the ILWU, held a random lottery for more part-timers, effectively expanding the list and making the wait times longer for those at the very bottom.

ILWU Local 13 asked the PMA to hire 600 casuals on a full-time basis, and ILWU Local 63 asked that 100 positions be filled in its union.

“We don’t have enough clerks to fill these jobs. We want more clerks,” Trani said. “Every day there’s at least a couple hundred jobs that go unfilled by (full-time) marine clerks.”

The PMA declined to comment.

About 46 percent of those casuals trained and approved to work make themselves available during any given week last year, according to the PMA statistics. And those casuals worked on average 1.6 eight-hour shifts per week.

Online Edition

Dozens of part-time dockworkers who have been waiting for years to land a full-time job protested outside their Wilmington union hall Friday, demanding they be given benefits and more work.

“They are frustrated,” said Paul Trani, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 63, representing marine clerks. “They have been sacrificing their family. Many have two jobs.”

Sep 10, 2017

710 Freeway expansion: What $12 billion will pay for ... maybe some day

Online Edition

By some estimates, it will cost the same as the 2,000-mile wall President Donald Trump wants to build along the Mexican border.

Nearly two decades in the making, it’s the proposed expansion of the 710 Freeway by adding lanes from Long Beach to East Los Angeles.

The projected cost: $6 billion to $12 billion, depending on which features are included the final plan.

Does it have a better chance to be formulated, funded and finished than the president’s bountiful barrier?

Fear of traffic, pollution and even possible displacement is stirring lots of anxiety among residents living in the 19-mile corridor’s path. But planners say the sky-high price tag means they won’t have anything to worry about for a long, long time.

“We simply don’t have these funds,” said Ernesto Chaves, project manager for Metro.

So far, the agency, along with the California Department of Transportation, estimate about $1.3 billion is available — over 30 years.

Breaking ground likely couldn’t happen until five years from now at the earliest. The project already is more than a decade behind schedule.

And about $60 million already has been spent on contractors, designers and technical staff.

The project will face its biggest bureaucratic hurdle early next year when the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board considers environmental documents laying out two project options.

The chances of completion don’t rest with the wishes of motorists who dream of a speedier commute. Inevitably, it’s a battle between commerce and residents’ quality of life — and planners’ methodical efforts to accommodate both.

Billions of dollars fly up and down the 710.

The freeway connects the mammoth twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Inland Empire’s burgeoning warehouses and deployment centers, along with rail yards and warehouses around the southeast Los Angeles. Thousands of big rigs travel this key trade corridor daily.

It’s almost always busy. Anyone who’s pulled onto the 710 and found themselves trapped between towering trucks would use less polite words, such as “clogged” or “gridlocked.”

Some stretches of the interstate report some of the highest rates of truck-involved crashes in the region.

With so many diesel-burning cargo haulers jamming the corridor, nearby communities breathe some of the dirtiest air in the region.

Planners say the expansion is needed because of the expected increase goods trekking in via the ports, which plan millions of dollars in improvements to handle the upswing, including the expected arrival of supersized megaships.

Traffic is expected to skyrocket, from 55,000 truck trips to and from the ports daily to more than 110,000 — many bound for an ever-increasing number of logistics centers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“Goods movements is so critical to Southern California” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments. “There is no question for the need to improve the 710.”

But like so many high-profile projects, he said, community opposition could ultimately tie up the project. It already has.

“We are saying yes, let’s do it, but let’s do it right. We need to build a consensus project,” said Susanne Browne, an attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles who sits on the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice.

The coalition — a group of environmental justice groups, community organizers and nonprofit lawyers — has been fighting on behalf of residents along the 710 corridor.

Their efforts to prevent displacing residents and rising pollution levels slowed the process way down as designers huddled, responded and adjusted their plans.

CEHAJ persuaded transportation agencies to overturn earlier proposals — including one that sought to make the 710 freeway a 10-lane megahighway.

Organizers pushed for an alternative plan that included a suite of clean-air initiatives and the vow that no homes or businesses would be razed. The Metro board backed those efforts in 2015.

In July, Metro and Caltrans offered their compromise. Emissions-reductions efforts were included, Chaves said — but added that no plan, regardless of cost, could promise that no residents would be forced out.

Planners came up with two options:

• “Alternative 5c” would expand the current freeway from Ocean Boulevard to East Los Angeles.

The $6 billion plan would add an extra lane to the corridor between the 405 and 60 freeways to increase capacity and provide for truck-passing lanes. It also would include funds for the purchase of about 4,000 zero- or near-zero-emission trucks.

This variation would force 436 residents from their homes or businesses.

• “Alternative 7,” at a cost of $12 billion, would add a separate lane for zero- and near-zero-emissions trucks and offer incentives for buying 18,350 of those vehicles.

This plan would push 512 people from their homes.

Both clean truck programs could stand on their own and be funded up to any amount, making the plan unique in the world of infrastructure projects.

“If we don’t do this kind of investment, we are going to be sorry and we are going to fall behind in this global economy,” Ikhrata said. “Every country in the world is investing in rail and highways.”

Ikhrata said he is optimistic that the project will happen — though his tone is tinged with skepticism.

“There is tremendous opposition to expansion projects in the state of California,” he said, pointing to the north side of the 710, where community opposition ultimately blocked its growth earlier this year after decades of legal and political skirmishes.

The freeway extension in the San Gabriel Valley — proposed alternately as surface roads, a tunnel or other ideas — was rejected in May by a 12-0 vote of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Similar community concerns have snarled the southern expansion project, he said, driving up costs and burning up time. And there’s still the chance, he said, that the effort will end up in court.

CEHAJ has already declared that neither of the revised plans meet its expectations and is calling for more revisions to ensure no homes will be in the freeway’s path.

Chaves said those demands simply aren’t realistic.

“That’s something that remains a point of disagreement,” he said.

Moreover, the group is still demanding zero emissions — not just low emissions — along the freight corridor. And it wants assurances that construction will provide jobs for residents who line the corridor.

But he said, “even if we don’t build the project, the Metro and Caltrans and decision-makers in our region are going to have to make a decision how they are going to want to fund this program.”

Saray Almodovar, 17, lives with her family near the 710, just off Washington Boulevard.

She sums up the feelings of many of her neighbors when she says saving her family’s house is more important than assuring smoother future commerce.

“We are worried they want to knock down our homes,” she said. “It’s really unfair to even bring this up. Some homes around here are already paid for.

Online Edition

By some estimates, it will cost the same as the 2,000-mile wall President Donald Trump wants to build along the Mexican border.

Nearly two decades in the making, it’s the proposed expansion of the 710 Freeway by adding lanes from Long Beach to East Los Angeles.

The projected cost: $6 billion to $12 billion, depending on which features are included the final plan.

Does it have a better chance to be formulated, funded and finished than the president’s bountiful barrier?

Sep 13, 2017

No easy cures for Long Beach Freeway woes

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The Long Beach Freeway has had many names in its storied history.

It started out as the Los Angeles River Freeway decades ago before finally being designated as the 710 and Long Beach Freeway.

But the clogged freeway also has more notorious names, like “Diesel Death Zone” and “Asthma Alley.”

And for more than 20 years there have been futile attempts to find a solution to this nightmarish, 19-mile corridor on Long Beach’s westside.

Once again, possible solutions are being talked about, but they are laced with pessimism because of the price tag: $6 billion to $12 billion, depending on which features would be included in the final plan.

It is a frustrating and perplexing situation.

The freeway is the main path used daily by thousands of trucks traveling from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to rail yards and warehouses around southeast Los Angeles and to the Inland Empire’s burgeoning warehouses and deployment centers.

Anyone caught between trucks knows what panic can mean. Some of the highest rates of truck-involved crashes occur on stretches of the 710.

And it’s going to get worse. Traffic is expected to soar, from 55,000 trucks trips to and from the ports daily to more than 110,000.

Planners have come up with two options: 1. Add an extra lane each way and include funds for the purchase of about 4,000 zero or near-zero emission trucks. Price tag: $6 billion. 2. Add separate lanes for zero- and near-zero-emissions trucks and offer incentives for buying 18,350 of those vehicles. Price tag: $12 billion.

What further complicates this vexing issue is that both options would force people from their homes. Those residents, understandably, are upset and may go to court to defend their homes.

The 710 expansion project will face its biggest political hurdle in a few months when the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority considers environmental documents laying out the two project options.

In the meantime, life on the Long Beach Freeway goes on with trucks spewing pollution, motorists hanging on for dear life and surrounding residents breathing in toxic air.

It’s not a pretty picture as officials, residents and motorists wrestle to find an answer.

Online Edition

The Long Beach Freeway has had many names in its storied history.

It started out as the Los Angeles River Freeway decades ago before finally being designated as the 710 and Long Beach Freeway.

But the clogged freeway also has more notorious names, like “Diesel Death Zone” and “Asthma Alley.”

And for more than 20 years there have been futile attempts to find a solution to this nightmarish, 19-mile corridor on Long Beach’s westside.

Jul 10, 2017

Trucker tells his story - and is fired for it

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Rene Flores said he regularly broke the law as a port trucker in Southern California, hauling shipping containers up to 20 hours straight between Long Beach and Phoenix.

He kept a fake logbook tucked beneath his seat so regulators wouldn't know he was violating federal fatigue laws for commercial truckers.

He said his company paid him so little - and charged so much for his leased truck - that he had no choice.

Flores said his managers at Morgan Southern knew about his hours, but for years the trucking company looked the other way.

Then, the 36-year old father of two talked publicly about his illegal hours and explained how his company paid him as little as 67 cents for a week of work in a USA TODAY Network story. On June 17, the day after the story was published, Morgan Southern fired him.

Flores couldn't afford to pay off the $30,000 balance of his leased truck, so the company took that too. Flores lost $60,000 in payments he had since 2013.

What happened to Flores is just the lates episode in a decade-long struggle that has seen hundreds of port truckers in California turned into modern-day indentured servants.

As the USA TODAY Network reported last month, many of these drivers say they were forced by their bosses to sign lease-to-own truck contracts, which put them in debt to their own employers. The trucks are so expensive - up to several thousand dollars a month for paymets and maintenance - that some drivers say they have no choice but to work 15 to 20 hours a day.

Drivers who refused to work or filed complaints say they faced retaliation by their employers, who could fire them or assign them lower-paying routes until they actually owed money to their company on payday.

In case after case, drivers who quit or got fired lost their trucks and everthing they had paid toward owning them.

Flores said hew as 10 months from the end of his lease contract when he was fired.

"Can you imagine sacrificing four years?" Flores said of the long days away from his wife and two sons, often for pay that dropped below minimum wage. "For all that sacrifice, I thought the truck would be mine."

As part of a year-long investigation into port trucking, the USA TODAY Network interviewed Flores and reported his story. He said he worked up to 20 hours a day and used a fake logbook to avoid detection by federal regulators.

"Of course they (his employers) know," he was quoted as saying in the original story. "But the company doesnt care."

Robert Milane , a spokesman and lawyer for Morgan Southern's parent company, Roadrunner Transportation, confirmed that Flores' public criticism, coupled with the fact that he refused to use electronic logbooks, forced the company to act.

"The fact that he stated that in his interview, we had no choiceto terminate his lease," Milane said. "He brought this on himself."

Milane also denied Flores drove more than federal law permits. He said Morgan Southern's electronic time logs prevent any driver from doing so.

"What he says wasn't true," Milane said. "I know he wasn't running over hours."

But Flores said he would simply switch over to paper logbooks when he knew he would be working past federal limits.

Another Morgan Southern driver, Jose Juan Rodriguez, told reporters in December that when he was still leasing his truck, he, too, often drove well past the legal limit. "Many times," he said, "we complain to the supervisor but we're told that if we aren't willing to work, 'there is the door.'"

Since July 2015, Morgan Southern has been cited 15 times for hours violations in California, according to Department of Transportation records.

Using California's open-records law, reporters obtained a port authority database that records the exact time a truck enters or exits the gate at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

A USA TODAY Network analysis of the data shows Flores' truck was in operation for at least 14 hours without the requried 10-hour berak at least nin times from 2013 to 2015. That number is likely an undercount because one of his more frequent routes took at least 13 hours, meaning he wouldn't pass through port gates enough to be flagged as working too long.

Other Morgan Southern trucks appear to hace axceeded hours limits more than 500 times from 2013 to 2016, the data show. Three out of four of the company's rigs went over hours at least once.

It is not clear whether these instances are violations becasue two drivers might divide time behind the wheel of a single truck.

Trucking experts and regulators say it can be a federal crime for company managers to knowingly send drivers on the road past federal limits.

Companies are responsible for tracking their workers' hours, even if they're classified as independent contractors, said Craig Weaver, a motor carrier safety specialist with the California Highway Patrol.

"They know how many hours their guys are working," he said. "Or they should."
Kelsey Frazier is a Teamster trustee and foreman at another California port trucking company, Pasha Hawaii. He said most companies have safety managers whose job is to track how long truckers have been on the road. Frazier said companies should know if drivers are over on their hours because they control when drivers are dispatched.

"I can promise you the company is tracking this," hes said. "Because you're liable if you dont."

 

Print Edition

Rene Flores said he regularly broke the law as a port trucker in Southern California, hauling shipping containers up to 20 hours straight between Long Beach and Phoenix.

He kept a fake logbook tucked beneath his seat so regulators wouldn't know he was violating federal fatigue laws for commercial truckers.

He said his company paid him so little - and charged so much for his leased truck - that he had no choice.

Flores said his managers at Morgan Southern knew about his hours, but for years the trucking company looked the other way.