Local activists have been trying to persuade the Port of Seattle to follow the lead of the Port of Los Angeles and require the trucking companies that haul goods to and from the Port to hire their drivers as full employees.
The argument activists make is that the current practice of having truckers own their own vehicles and essentially work as independent contractors prevents them from bringing in enough income to afford anything but the cheapest and least environmentally friendly trucks. Hence, air quality suffers.
But that argument lost steam yesterday as officials from the Port of L.A. gave testimony during a Congressional hearing.
The Port of L.A. has been prevented from implementing its employment requirement by a lawsuit, filed by the American Trucking Association. (The ATA fears that employed drivers may unionize.) But even without that requirement, the Port conceded that air pollution has been reduced by 70 percent from 2007 levels, in part thanks to a truck buyback program.
Speaking from Washington D.C., Heather Weiner of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports says that the employment requirement has implications beyond air pollution. Her committee is backing a push by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to amend federal law, which currently prevents Port administrations from implementing an employment requirement.
Even if the legislation passes, it'll be an uphill battle. Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani told us in January that the Port already has enough tools to combat air quality problems caused by the older trucks.
A spokesperson for the Port says that 154 truck drivers have taken the Port up on its offer to help them replace exhaust-belching older trucks with a newer model.