Appropriators back transportation spending bill with trucking fix

The Senate Appropriations Committee easily advanced a transportation spending bill on Thursday containing a trucking provision safety advocates have been pushing against this week.

In a 30-0 vote, lawmakers reported a measure out of committee that would provide $56.5 billion in discretionary spending to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other related agencies in fiscal 2017.

The figure is $2.9 billion less than the president’s budget request and $827 million less than the current funding level.

The spending bill contains a technical fix to a drafting error made in last year’s government spending bill. A provision in that bill said proposed changes to the hours of service rule for truck drivers — which were enacted in 2013 but later suspended — cannot be implemented until the DOT proves the regulation would improve driver health and safety.

But legislators left out essential language clarifying what would happen if the agency fails to find that the rule is beneficial for drivers, which would force the DOT to revert to rules put in place more than a decade ago.

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Port drivers win millions in back pay from trucking firm

A port trucking firm in Carson has been ordered to turn over nearly $7 million in back pay to 38 drivers, the latest in a series of recent wins for port drivers and the Teamsters union that has been trying to organize them.

The state Labor Commissioner’s Office ruled this month that the drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation were improperly treated as independent contractors rather than as employees. It ordered the company to compensate drivers for illegal paycheck deductions, back wages and legal costs, payouts that amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for some.

Though the decision, disclosed Tuesday, affects just a fraction of the nearly 12,000 drivers who haul cargo at the local ports, the order shows that labor organizers are having some success in using employee classification claims to push trucking firms to treat drivers as employees — who, unlike contractors, are allowed to unionize.


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Retailers See Shipping Imports Ending Year on a High Note

Retailers predict that import volumes at the nation’s major container ports will finish the year on a high note despite weak demand during this year’s traditional peak shipping season.

September’s volume of 1.62 million import containers at the nation’s biggest import gateways was up 2.2% from last year and October’s 1.56 million containers was essentially flat, down 0.1% from the same period in 2014, according to the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates LLC released Tuesday.

Volumes in September and October, which usually encompass what retailers call the peak season for import shipments, were both down from August, an early peak during which many ports handled uncommonly high import volumes. Several big retailers reported in the wake of the strong shipping summer that they had overstocked and would try to pare back inventories in the fall.


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Independent truckers make more than employed counterparts, economist says

A study by Southern California economist John Husing released Wednesday found that the median net earnings of independent owner-operator truck drivers in the region are substantially higher than for company drivers who work as employees of licensed motor carriers.

The study probably will not end the hot debate as to whether employee drivers, who are eligible for unionization, are compensated better than independent contractors, who by law can not be unionized. However, the findings are important because the numbers show that drivers who choose to remain owner-operators are not at the bottom of the wage scale in port regions, but actually out-earn many sectors.

Husing concluded that 75 percent of the independent-contractor drivers in his study earn more than other workers in 156 of the 158 worker classifications in the warehouse/logistics industry in Southern California’s Inland Empire, and the independent truck drivers earn more even than some workers who have college degrees.

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Peel off method gaining momentum as port congestion fighter

SAN DIEGO — The terminal operator of the future in high-volume ports must eliminate multiple handling of containers and reduce truck wait times within the yard in order to handle cargo surges from big ships, logistics experts were told Wednesday.

A process known as free flow, or peel off, is attracting favorable reviews from terminal operators as well as truckers in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Though still considered to be in its infancy since it was launched in early 2014, the ports are confident enough about the potential of peel off that they are identifying parcels of land in the harbor area that can be used to expand the program.

What makes peel off interesting and somewhat different from other initiatives designed to reduce terminal congestion is that it takes place in the terminal yard, rather than alongside the vessel or at the gate, yet the efficiencies generated by peel off are shared by truckers, vessel operators and cargo owners, as well as the terminals.

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September 11, 2015 – Marine Traffic

Archived live image via MarineTraffic of anchored and moving cargo vessels surrounding the Port of Tacoma.

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September 4, 2015 – Marine Traffic

Archived live image via MarineTraffic of anchored and moving cargo vessels surrounding the Port of Tacoma.

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The Latest Threat to the Owner-Operator Model

New guidance from the Department of Labor issued in July could pose a threat to the trucking industry’s use of owner-operator drivers as independent contractors.

The American Trucking Associations calls it “an aggressive departure from prevailing classification standards,” saying it “no doubt signals an attack on industries like trucking that rely significantly on contractors.”

Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1 is aimed at “misclassification” of employees as independent contractors. The issue has been a focus of the Obama administration and is being pushed by labor unions, most visible among port drayage firms and in recent highly publicized and successful lawsuits against FedEx.

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August 24, 2015 – Marine Traffic

Archived live image via MarineTraffic of anchored and moving cargo vessels surrounding the Port of Tacoma.

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August 21, 2015 – Marine Traffic

Archived live image via MarineTraffic of anchored and moving cargo vessels surrounding the Port of Tacoma.

Tacoma 8.21