OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - An independent truckers association is asking a federal judge to enjoin a California rule that bans trucks that do not meet emissions standards from doing business at California ports, saying the rule is causing the truckers to be "unemployed by government mandate."
The Northern California Rail and Port Truckers Association wants a federal judge to enjoin the California Air Resources Board and the Port of Oakland from enforcing the rule because it will result in thousands of independent truckers being "'unemployed by government mandate,' a concept unheard of in our entire nation's history," the truckers say.
Under new standards set by the Air Resources Board, commercial trucks must be retrofitted with a device that monitors and controls the vehicle's soot emissions via computer, and truck models older than 1994 must be replaced altogether.
Hundreds of independent truckers say they are being "singled out" beyond any other industry by CARB, which they claim underestimated by millions of dollars the cost of retrofitting old trucks. They claim the state is violating its own constitution by throwing the truckers out of work.
Most independent truck drivers were denied state grant money to help them comply with the new rules, even though they applied for grants before the Aug. 18, 2009 deadline, truckers association spokesman Ron Dacus said in an interview.
"They were sent letters saying there was no more funding available," said Dacus, noting that most of the drivers who received rejections were independent truckers.
Although CARB has extended the deadline for retrofitting until April 30, 2010, Dacus said, he doubts that most drivers will be compliant by then, given the lack of funding for the devices, which cost around $20,000 apiece, and the backlog of trucks awaiting installation of the devices.
Dacus said the CARB has refused to extend the deadline any further. "They were very firm about that," he said.
Dacus said he worries that independent truckers will cease to exist if they are banned from California ports.
"What I have learned is that out of state carriers who are already compliant have stepped up to the plate. That is of great concern to us because independent owners are being left out of the equation," he said. "The small businessman is being left to deal with the fallout because companies are poised to come in and absorb the vacuum."
The NCRPTA met with CARB representatives on Monday to discuss additional funding, of which $8 million will be made available to truckers who were initially rejected and are willing to reapply.
But for independent truckers like Dacus, the issue is not just funding, but whether the state has the constitutional authority to implement the emissions rule.
"At this point, there are many more issues than funding. Funding is the least volatile issue," Dacus said.
In their petition, the truckers demand that the ban on noncompliant trucks be stayed until CARB can raise enough money to retrofit every truck in Oakland, as well as $25,000 for each violation of the California Corporations Code.
They are represented by Irvinder Dhanda, NCRPTA president.
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