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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Jan 11, 2018

Death of the American Trucker

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When Donald Trump sidles up to a semi truck, he's usually selling policy only a plutocrat could love. Campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act in March, Trump pinned an iTrucks button to his lapel and honked the horn of a Mack truck outside the White House. "Obamacare," he said, "has inflicted great pain on American truckers." In October, at a rally before the "proud men and women of the American Trucking Associations" in Pennsylvania, Trump touted GOP plans to slash corporate taxes by 40 percent and to end "the crushing, horrible and unfair estate tax." Behind him, positioned for the TV cameras, was an 18-wheeler – emblazoned with an unlikely slogan: truckers for tax reform. He vowed his America First agenda "means putting American truckers first."

In his stagecraft, Trump puts truckers on a pedestal. Behind the scenes, his administration is seeking to hasten a revolution in robotic driving that poses an existential threat to their livelihoods. We're at the dawn of the self-driving truck. The technology will benefit most Americans: Ever-alert robotic semis promise safer highways, reduced emissions, faster ship times and, for the 70 percent of goods that travel by truck, lower costs. Yet this same revolution threatens every single job in heavy trucking – 1.7 million in all, according to a White House analysis published in the final days of the Obama administration. Truckers earn $60 billion in annual wages. And trucking is now the most common profession in 29 states, according to an NPR analysis of census data, including the Rust Belt trio of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that put Trump into office.

Ultimately, automated driving could offer a dark replay of the decline of factory work. In Trump's misdiagnosis, "disastrous trade deals" undermined American manufacturing jobs. But the true culprit is not cheap Chinese labor as much as it's robots here at home. From 2000 to 2010, output from American factories soared, but manufacturers slashed 5.6 million jobs, with automation and other tech advances driving 88 percent of those layoffs, according to research from Ball State University.

Full automation of our highways might take decades – lessening the blow to today's drivers. But there's a gold rush on to disrupt the $700 billion American trucking industry. A report by the International Transport Forum projects a scenario in which roughly 1 million heavy-truck drivers lose their jobs by 2025. McKinsey Global Institute offers an even more dramatic possibility: 85 percent automation, or nearly 1.5 million jobs lost, by 2027. At that pace, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress need to begin backing aggressive policies to support displaced truckers. But in its first year, the Trump administration has sided with the automators: Trump's short-lived business advisory council was stocked with CEOs pushing the envelope of robotic trucking, including Uber and Tesla. Trump's tax plan offers big breaks for investment in automation. And Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has vowed the administration will be "a catalyst" for a driverless future. It is a revealing betrayal, exposing rot at the core of Trump's promises to "make America great again." Far from putting the country's forgotten workers in the driver's seat, Trump's administration threatens to make them economic roadkill.

This is a dangerous political game for the president, whose link to trucking runs deeper than the half-million MAGA trucker hats reportedly sold by his campaign. Truckers are Trump's people: 95 percent lack a college education; more than 90 percent are men; three out of four are white. This demographic voted for the president at a 71 percent clip. "Anyone who has paid attention to the last two years of our politics knows you can't ignore millions of workers' voices," says Sam Loesche, the legislative representative for the Teamsters union. "Or you do so at your own peril."

Robotic trucking may go down easy – at first. Market-ready tech offers semiautonomous cruise control and other advances to ease the work burden on truckers, without making them redundant. But the slippery slope of automation leads to a cliff: Trucks with no role – or room – for a human. Eventually, "none of the new trucks will have a cab on them," predicted Anthony Levandowski, Uber's former star automation engineer, in 2016. "It just doesn't make sense to have that."

Heavy trucking has emerged as an unexpected hotbed of innovation. In November, Tesla founder Elon Musk stood before hundreds of superfans at an airport hangar next to his SpaceX headquarters outside Los Angeles. Wearing jeans and a barn jacket, Musk unveiled his long-haul electric rig: the Tesla Semi, featuring phenomenal acceleration, bulletlike aerodynamics (less drag than a Bugatti Chiron roadster) and a 500-mile range. The truck "will be running on sunlight," Musk said in his lilting South African accent, describing the Semi's 30-minute recharging time at a planned network of solar-powered "megachargers."

The Tesla Semi is also automation-ready. It incorporates "Enhanced Autopilot" technology already at work in Tesla's cars. Relying on radar and an elaborate system of cameras mounted about the rig, the Semi will robotically follow the speed of traffic, maintain and change lanes, and even come to a controlled stop should the driver fall asleep or become incapacitated. An animation projected behind Musk teased the Semi's convoy capability, where a lead Semi with a human driver is followed by a pair of self-driving trucks. "You're more like a train driver," Musk said. Called "platooning" by competitors, this technology synchronizes the human smarts and intuition of a lead driver with the steering, acceleration and braking of the autonomous trailing trucks. "This is something we can do today, 10 times safer than a human driver," Musk said. "I want to be clear: This is something we can do now!"

The first Tesla Semis will not roll off the production line until 2019. (PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and Walmart, among others, have reserved nearly 300 trucks.) But platooning is already being road-tested by industry giants including Volvo and Daimler. In a diesel scenario, platooning also offers big fuel savings even for manned trucks; each trailing rig uses 10 percent less fuel. But with advances in autonomy, trucking companies will be able to shed costly drivers, until even the lead vehicle in a virtual train of autonomous semis is piloting itself by artificial intelligence. A software engineer working for Daimler tells Rolling Stone that employment for truck drivers in a world of platooning will soon get Darwinian: "It's adapt or die."

Truly driverless truck technology has already made a great leap from the test track to the open roadway. On a chilly night in October 2016, an Uber subsidiary called Otto dispatched an automated rig with all-American cargo: 2,000 cases of Budweiser. The robotic truck hauled 120 miles south along the base of the Rockies from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, navigating a tricky curve by Denver's Mile High stadium without its trailer drifting from the lane. The only human on board, a sandy-haired driver named Walter, sat in the cab's sleeper berth. Radar, cameras and GPS systems mounted about the airfoil and bumper – combined with lidar, a technology that creates a view of the road with reflected lasers – fed a torrent of data to an on-board computer, guiding the AI autopilot through each decision: accelerating and braking, turning, changing lanes.

A police convoy accompanied the predawn run, but the ride went off without a hitch. When it was time to exit the freeway, Walter took the controls and finished the drive to the distribution center. Dan Murray, vice president of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), who observed the Otto run, says, "The technology is almost ready for prime time."

Otto was the brainchild of Levandowski, a former top engineer of Google's self-driving-car unit, who early on saw the disruptive potential in trucking. City traffic can bedevil AI driving systems – does the waving cyclist want the vehicle to slow down or to speed up and go around? But highway driving is as much as 50 times simpler. "It's really silly to have a person steering a truck for eight hours just to keep it between two lines on the highway," Levandowski told reporters at Otto's launch.

In his race to market, Levandowski didn't attempt to build a brand-new semi. Instead, he created an aftermarket kit to automate existing diesel trucks. His dirty-fast-and-first ethos was a cultural fit for Uber, which bought Otto for $680 million in August 2016. But Levandowski and Uber have since landed in legal jeopardy. Google's self-driving unit Waymo has sued Uber, estimating damages at $1.9 billion – alleging Levandowski stole lidar technology when he left the company. Levandowski has pleaded the Fifth in court, and Uber has been humbled by a cascade of legal and sexual scandals leading to the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick.

The industry's jack rabbit may have stumbled, but competitors are surging ahead. Embark is a Silicon Valley startup founded in 2016 by Alex Rodrigues, a 22-year-old with blue eyes and a shock of black hair, who built his first automated robot as a 13-year-old wunderkind. Embark includes a military-grade GPS that could enable driving in low-visibility conditions. In November, Embark announced it had begun shipping refrigerators as far as 650 miles – from El Paso, Texas, to Palm Springs, California – "the longest automated freight route in the world today," according to Rodrigues.

In Embark's business model, long-haul highway robots work in concert with local drivers at either end of a route. These humans act like harbor pilots – ferrying trailers from a staging area by the freeway's edge to the warehouse or box store and back. For now, a human driver sits behind the wheel of Embark's trucks as a fail-safe. But Rodrigues insists his goal is "a fully autonomous truck."

There's already stiff competition. In China, a startup called TuSimple is striving to introduce road-safe autonomous semis by 2020. In Sweden, Volvo has been putting a new robotic truck through the paces in the dark twists and turns of an underground mine. Mining, in fact, is the clearest place to see where heavy trucking is headed. In 2016, Rio Tinto deployed dozens of autonomous trucks – each the size of a small house – to haul iron ore in Australia. The rigs run 24 hours a day, with no breaks, and eliminate minor human errors that slow production. "We're going to continue as aggressively as possible down this path," Rio Tinto's productivity chief told MIT Technology Review. The trucks in the mine today still have cabs, but Rio Tinto's supplier, Komatsu, showcased a new line of Autonomous Haulage Vehicles last year in Las Vegas – with no place for any driver.

The race to automate our highways could be good for the nation as a whole – increasing productivity, sparking GDP growth and raising living standards. "At an economy level, we'd like automation to happen as quickly as possible," says Victor Bennett, a Duke economist and lead author of the Obama White House study on automation. "But that's really difficult for people whose jobs are in trucking."

At the lunch counter of a Country Pride restaurant in Troutdale, Oregon – inside a truck stop by Interstate 84, connecting Portland to Salt Lake City – I meet Louis Pribble, who has been driving trucks since 1987. The shaggy-haired Pribble, 52, sports a Bone Collector camo hunting cap. His red T-shirt has a silkscreen of a bullet and the slogan SHARE A ROUND WITH ISIS.

Like the drivers of dozens of rigs in the parking lot, Pribble is idled here on this drizzly afternoon for a federally mandated rest. These long breaks are a key drag on the economics of trucking that innovators hope to disrupt. If robots are doing the driving, says Murray of ATRI, "suddenly the mandate that 10 hours off is required for fatigue management and safety – it has nothing to do with that anymore." Embark recently persuaded Peterbilt to add enough diesel capacity on test trucks to run 48 hours straight. And that's not an upper limit. "When you no longer need a driver in the cab, there's all this room where you potentially can add fuel capacity," Embark chief operating officer Mike Reid says. "That voids the need for having to pull over to refuel the truck."

Pribble drives "all 48" contiguous states, running 12,000 miles a month in a 2016 Volvo, delivering packaged meals to grocery stores, and he makes decent money – up to $5,500 a month. In an America of stagnant annual wages, trucking is a rare bright spot, rising 5.7 percent last year to more than $52,000, according to Glassdoor. With his disposable income, Pribble collects abstract art created by drummer Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses – "my retirement account," Pribble jokes. And he had recently splurged on a test-track drive of a Lamborghini at a facility across from a truck stop in Las Vegas. Pribble spends his downtime playing Xbox in his cab and his off days at golf courses across the country. He's cycled out of trucking in the past, he says, but found it impossible to get ahead working in his hometown of Hermiston, Oregon: "Last job I had, it took two and a half weeks of work to just make a pickup payment." Trucking, he says, is "better money than any other job out there."

The wage premium for truckers compensates for work that is taxing, tedious and not infrequently deadly. According to the Department of Labor, heavy-truckers "have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations" – about three times the average worker – owing to long hours, sedentary time behind the wheel, road accidents, and dangerous tasks around the truck, like securing cargo. Trucking is America's deadliest job in pure numbers – 745 fatalities in 2015 – and deadlier on average than even electrical power-line work. It's also lonely. Pribble sees his girlfriend back home only a few days a month. "It's hard on both people," he admits.

Pribble is a Trump supporter, culturally and economically. He's angry that Hermiston is, in his words, "full of illegal Mexicans." He bristles at regulation of the truck industry and loves Trump's proposal to cut two regulations for every new one put in place. Above all, Pribble is confident the president will bring jobs roaring back in America. "Trump is trying to keep his promises," he tells me.

When it comes to the threat of automation, Pribble is skeptical that a robot will soon take his job away. "Everybody is all worked up about it," he says, but Pribble thinks the boy wonders of Silicon Valley have yet to grapple with down-and-dirty parts of his job. "I'd like to see that driverless truck put chains on," he says with a laugh. "I'd like to see that driverless truck in snow." Maybe younger guys should think twice about a career in trucking, he concedes. As for him? "By the time we get to the George Jetson era, I'll be long retired," he says. "Probably dead."

Next to bad weather – snow can blind laser and optical sensors – the greatest technical hurdle to deploying autonomous trucks is the complexity of urban driving. But Kyle Vogt, the head of Cruise, GM's self-driving-car unit, has been testing a fleet of autonomous Chevy Bolts on the streets of San Francisco and will soon tackle New York. Vogt recently posted a video of a Cruise car autonomously navigating a notorious six-way San Francisco intersection – with the traffic signal out. "Self-driving cars have 360-degree vision – there's no blind spots," Vogt says. "They're looking everywhere, all the time. And able to process complex scenes at a much higher rate than a human could."

There are also regulatory, social and security hurdles. The U.S. now has a patchwork of state regulation – where any exists – controlling the deployment of autonomous trucks. The Otto beer run in Colorado would have been prohibited in Ohio, where a human is required to remain in the driver's seat. And while automation promises to eliminate human error, no one is sure who pays for an automated crash – particularly in the transitional phase, where a human still sits inside the cab. "What happens if a driver is supposed to take control in a split second, and for whatever reason there's a crash?" asks Lamont Byrd, the Teamsters' safety and health department director. "That hasn't been worked out." Terrorists have killed dozens of civilians in New York, Barcelona and Nice by weaponizing trucks. "Imagine three vehicles controlled by a guy with a laptop halfway around the world," says Loesche, the Teamsters' legislative representative. "Those are monster, monster hurdles – especially in D.C." Finally, even if self-driving vehicles are proved safer as a matter of statistics, they may not feel safer to fellow drivers on the road. "Driving next to any car or truck, and not seeing a human in it," says Murray, "is certainly going to freak out Grandma."

But none of these obstacles are likely to keep truckers from becoming the new coal miners. The gut punch of job loss will be heightened by a decline in next-job wages. Truckers "currently enjoy a wage premium over others in the labor market with the same level of educational attainment," the 2016 White House report says, and are unlikely to "regain this wage premium if displaced." The traditional fallback for a trucker – another driving job – will also be vanishing in this revolution. Uber, to name one example, signed a pledge to buy 24,000 self-driving SUVs from Volvo. More than 3.7 million Americans make a living behind the wheel, and 3.1 million of those jobs are at risk. A report by Goldman Sachs found that when autonomous vehicles reach peak deployment, 25,000 drivers a month will be out of work. And that flood of unemployed drivers, says Bennett, the Duke economist, would also "push down the wages of other low-wage jobs."

Trump has shown little concern for this threat to truckers. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin insisted in a March 2017 interview that job loss from automation is "not even on our radar screen," adding, "I'm not worried at all." Meanwhile, Trump's budget outline aims to slash the Labor Department by more than 20 percent, including deep cuts to job-training grants that might help drivers laid off for robots.

At the Transportation Department, the Trump administration is championing automation in driving. "I want to issue a challenge to Silicon Valley, Detroit and all other auto-industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technologies," Secretary Chao told the National Governors Association conference in 2017. She was met with unexpected resistance from Republicans in attendance. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pressed Chao to look "far enough ahead so we don't create job-loss opportunities." Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was more blunt: "I can't urge you enough – autonomous vehicles have tremendous opportunity, but at the same time there are some big-time workforce issues," adding the administration should take policy steps now to avoid "a tremendous amount of economic hardship along the way."

Chao validated the governors' worries: "As a former secretary of labor, I'm very, very concerned about that," she said. "We do have to transition people." (Chao declined to comment.) But even under Democratic administrations, America has a bleak history of retraining blue-collar workers. Factory workers pushed out of $25-an-hour jobs with generous benefits often can only find service-sector jobs that pay half as much. Dislocation has created a loss of purpose – death rates among middle-aged white men have risen, largely due to suicide and substance abuse. Ironically, argues Arthur Brooks, president of conservative think tank AEI, it is this "dignity gap" that Trump exploited to win the White House.

Washington's lack of interest in policy solutions is ceding the arena to icons of tech and local government. Bill Gates has called for taxing robots to generate revenues equivalent to the taxes paid by displaced humans – funds to be invested in subsidizing labor where automation is less useful. Musk has called for a universal basic income to offset the sting of automation. "It's going to be necessary," he advised the World Government Summit in Dubai. In an interview with Rolling Stone, California Gov. Jerry Brown agreed: "Income assistance is something that needs to be looked at carefully. . . . We need to get at it sooner rather than later."

Other interventions could include auctioning permits for self-driving vehicles to slow adoption. Or levying a vehicle mileage tax to capture social costs of driver displacement; Americans would still get cheaper goods, just not at the expense of human drivers. "What we'd like very much is to not have to make a trade-off between 300 million people getting lower prices and safer roads and 3 million people losing their jobs," says Bennett. "The question is: Is there a way to not make that trade-off?"

 

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Jan 29, 2018

City Mulling Whether To Appeal BNSF Rail Project To State Supreme Court

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After the California Court of Appeal overturned the majority of a trial court’s earlier findings that the environmental impact report (EIR) for a new rail facility proposed by BNSF Railway was largely insufficient, appellants – including the City of Long Beach – are considering whether to take the matter to the California Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal ruled on January 12 that the EIR for BNSF’s Southern California International Gateway Project, a $500 million proposed intermodal railyard adjacent to Westside Long Beach and harbor communities, was sufficient, with one exception. The EIR “fails to adequately consider air quality impacts of the project, particularly impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations,” the court decision states. A trial court’s earlier ruling that identified other deficiencies in the EIR, including insufficient analysis of traffic noise impacts, was tossed out.

The project was originally protested in court by appellants including the City of Long Beach, the Long Beach Unified School District, community groups and businesses that would be displaced by the project. They argued that much of the EIR was insufficient and would negatively impact surrounding communities. The project was defended both by BNSF and the City of Los Angeles, who presented the project as a jobs creator and supply chain efficiency strategy.

Mike Mais, assistant city attorney for Long Beach who has been working on the case, said that the ruling does not mean the project has a green light to move forward. The EIR must be revised to address the Court of Appeal’s finding, he explained. “It would be necessary to do additional studies and mitigation measures on air quality, which was one of the big issues that we all had primarily because of the [nearby] schools and the residents,” he said.

Mais has spoken with other parties opposed to the project, but no decisions have been made about whether or not to bring the matter before the California Supreme Court. According to City Attorney Charles Parkin, the matter will be addressed in a closed session meeting of the Long Beach City Council on February 6, at which time the council may direct the city attorney’s staff to pursue the case further.

BNSF provided the following statement from Roger Nober, chief legal officer and executive vice president of law and corporate affairs: “We are pleased that the court has reversed the lower court ruling, correctly applied the law and maintained the existing scope of CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act]. We are currently reviewing the ruling and will coordinate with the Port of Los Angeles regarding next steps.”

Print Edition

After the California Court of Appeal overturned the majority of a trial court’s earlier findings that the environmental impact report (EIR) for a new rail facility proposed by BNSF Railway was largely insufficient, appellants – including the City of Long Beach – are considering whether to take the matter to the California Supreme Court.

Jan 29, 2018

On-Dock Rail Facility Gets Green Light

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The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility, a project to expand on-dock rail capacity at the Port of Long Beach, on January 22. The board approved the final environmental impact report (EIR) for the project, selecting the largest possible footprint for the facility outlined in that document. While most public commenters at the meeting spoke in support of the project, Westside business owners emphasized how it would negatively impact their operations.

The Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility EIR process began in 2009, when a notice of preparation for the document was released to the public, according to Richard Cameron, managing director of planning and environmental affairs for the port. Since then, port staff has conducted “extensive outreach,” including meetings with property and business owners who would be affected and even displaced by the project, he said at the meeting.

The board selected what is referred to as the “12th Street Alternative” – the largest project footprint that extends as far north as 12th Street. On-dock rail at Pier B will be extended to enable longer trains to be assembled and cargo to be placed directly onto rail within terminal gates.

At the meeting, Heather Tomley, the port’s director of environmental planning, stated that each train that leaves the port via on-dock rail could eliminate the need for as many as 750 truck trips. The project is part of a larger initiative by the port to increase the amount of cargo moved by on-dock rail to 35% and is in line with the goals of the recently updated Clean Air Action Plan, Cameron noted.

Many public commenters spoke in support of the project, including several different union representatives who said that it would generate jobs for their members. Leadership and representatives from the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Long Beach City College, the City of Huntington Beach, Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s office, the Long Beach Fire Department and other entities came out to show their support.

But Westside business owners with operations adjacent to the project expressed dismay. Rail would be built directly next to some businesses, including Superior Electrical Advertising, as its owner, Stan Janocha, pointed out during the public comment period. With clients like Starbucks and Disney, having a rail facility within 125 feet of his property is not an attractive proposition, he explained.

Daryl Phillips, owner of 103-year old business Phillips Steel Co., acknowledged that he was outnumbered by supporters of the project. While he expressed gratitude to port staff for having open lines of communication and acknowledged that it was an important project for the community, he emphasized that the project would negatively impact area businesses.

Phillips noted that the project would disconnect the Westside’s access to the Shoemaker Bridge, which port staff estimated would add an additional four minutes to commute time between the area and Downtown Long Beach. That is a concern for businesses who are worried about the response time by emergency services, Phillips explained.

“In its current size, it truly affects and eliminates way too many businesses, and I would hope that you take an earnest [effort] in understanding our position,” Phillips said. “We know that you’re going to help mitigate, but that doesn’t change the effect, especially with my own employees and all of the other businesses.”

Other businesses would be forced to move or shut down. Thirty-nine parcels – which, as a port spokesperson pointed out, does not equate to as many businesses – may need to be acquired to build the project, according to the EIR. One of those properties encompasses LAN Logistics, a family-owned business at 11th Street that has been located at the site for more than 20 years.

“I am disappointed by the outcome of the vote at the meeting held Monday given that there were other viable options on the table that would have avoided the displacement of my company that’s been located close to the port for decades for a good reason,” LAN Logistics owner John Donaldson told the Business Journal days after the vote. He explained that the cargo the company handles is large and heavy, which necessitates proximity to the port.

Donaldson continued, “Though our location relative to the port is essential to the viability of our business, I am hopeful that the port will work with us to find and/or develop another viable option for relocation and assist with the heavy expenses that come along with the situation we now face to allow us to continue serving our customers, provide stable employment, and improve the local community to the best of our ability.”

During the meeting, Port Executive Director Mario Cordero emphasized that the port remains committed to working with business and property owners who are affected and whose operations may have to be relocated. “The fact is that for this port to remain competitive we need to enhance our rail capability,” Cordero said. “And as you have heard from some of the commentary, clearly enhancing this project is an opportunity to create jobs in the community and support international trade.”

In a recent interview with the Business Journal, Sean Gamette, the port’s managing director of engineering services, pointed out that the final EIR did not include finalized designs for the project, and that there may still be opportunities to mitigate impacts to businesses. He also emphasized that he and his staff are working to create buffer zones along project-adjacent properties, including Superior Electrical Advertising.

Print Edition

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility, a project to expand on-dock rail capacity at the Port of Long Beach, on January 22. The board approved the final environmental impact report (EIR) for the project, selecting the largest possible footprint for the facility outlined in that document. While most public commenters at the meeting spoke in support of the project, Westside business owners emphasized how it would negatively impact their operations.

Feb 06, 2018

Plans for an $820 million railyard oust longtime Long Beach businesses

Online Edition

Roy Hetherington doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress. But progress is about to roll right over his business.

The Long Beach Harbor Commission recently gave the go-ahead on plans to build an $820 million railyard that proponents say will cut pollution and speed up cargo handling at the nation’s second busiest ports.

The 171-acre project just west of the 710 freeway marks a rare moment at the port: Environmentalists, shippers and port officials all agree it is a game changer that will help reduce pollution while making the port more competitive.

It will also force Hetherington and others out of shops where they have build their livelihood. And, compounding matters, officials say land available in industrial areas near the port is becoming scarce as marijuana growers snap up parcels in order to comply with laws requiring them to operate away from schools.

“I am not going to move out of here without a fight,” said Hetherington, a former merchant marine who runs a humming ship repair shop that employs about 40 workers.

He said his business depends on his location, just minutes from the dock.

“We put a lot of time and effort into building this place up,” Hetherington said. “I don’t want to see my business go.”

Harbor planners will need to oust owners of 39 properties and more tenants along a stretch of land south of 12th street in West Long Beach to build the yard. Port officials said they have already identified places to relocate businesses and will be offering them a fair price for their land.

“Our dialogue with the business community and those affected is a priority for us,” said Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director. “The goal is to make sure that whatever transitions are made, it is fair to everybody.”

Industrial land

Filled with greasy machine shops and crowded container yards, the quiet pot-marked road where the railyard will be built is bounded by 12th Street to the north, the 710 Freeway to the west and an existing yard to the south. About the only folks here are workers toiling behind concrete walls in the belly of the port’s industrial sector.

Lawrence Weber grew up along these quiet streets. The 47-year-old watched his grandfather and his father run Spun Products, a metal fabricating shop that opened in the 1970s and builds custom parts for the aerospace industry.

“I have spent my life here building this business and I got to go somewhere else?,” he said. “It’s like, why should I have to move? I own this place. I have paid for it in blood, sweat and tears.”

Port officials said details of relocation have not yet been worked out, and lawyers are reviewing the properties. But officials promise to help all they can.

“The port takes this really seriously,” said David Albers, a deputy city attorney. “These our our neighbors.”

He expects evaluations on the parcels will begin later this year, but emphasized the port is still in the early planning stages. The port will offer relocation assistance and what it deems market value for the property.

But Weber doesn’t see how officials can replicate his place.

“We would probably end up having to leave the area and most of our guys live in the area,” he said. “Some of us have been here for 20 years.”

Green zone

The vacancy rate for commercial real estate in the area is at about 1 percent, said David Bales of Lee & Associates, a commercial real estate company with offices in Gardena.

“The ones that have the biggest problem are the ones that have to be on the waterfront,” he said.

There’s not a lot of commercial property along the water. Bales said prices of property in industrial zones has skyrocketed as marijuana growers move in.

Cultivators of marijuana, which became legal for recreational use in California on Jan. 1, have zeroed in on places like West Long Beach because it’s far from schools and homes. A cluster of would-be growers have pending permit requests with the city.

Derek Caldwell, a real estate agent, said he’s sold about a dozen properties in the area to would-be marijuana growers over the last two years. And in that time, he’s seen prices more than double.

“There’s a lot of competition,” he said. “Most buyers are all cash.”

The trend scares Hetherington, who is still waiting for the city to notify him about their final plans. But he’s frustrated. He recently purchased a property next to his current business with plans to grow.

Dirty air

Rick Cameron, head of planning and environmental affairs for the port, said construction on the railyard could begin as soon as 2020, and will take place over several years.

The project comes as pressure increases to clean up air around the ports, the largest stationary source of pollution in the region. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been looking toward so-called “on-dock rail” as one way to reduce truck trips that cause traffic along nearby freeways and increase congestion at port gates.

The theory is that picking up cargo by rail when it’s unloaded from the ship, as opposed to putting it on trucks, will lessen congestion, ease pollution and speed up efficiency in an area sometimes referred to as the “diesel death zone.”

“As cargo continues to grow, having this infrastructure in place will help us move more of that cargo by rail,” said Heather Tomley, the port’s director of environmental planning. “Without this project, this cargo would have to go by truck.”

She estimates one train trip could replace more than 700 truck trips.

Currently, about 20 percent of all the steel container boxes are placed onto trains near terminals, but the port wants to increase that to 35 percent as more and more containers are imported into the port, ferrying everything from furniture to machine parts.

Cordero said the railyard project is “crucial” to hitting lower pollution targets.

The plans will triple the capacity at the already existing railyard, from 12 tracks to 48 tracks, and will provide a key staging area for terminals that will allow shippers to assemble trains up to 10,000 feet long and send them out to points across the country. Right now, there’s no room to do that in the terminals.

But it’s gong to do so at the cost of business owners.

“There’s no two ways about it,” said John Donaldson, president of LAN Logistics, whose company is also in the path of construction. “It will bite our ability to work.”

His company moves heavy machinery for the military and others near the port.

“We have to be in this area to do what we do,” he said. “There’s a threat of not being able to do what we are doing.”

 

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Roy Hetherington doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress. But progress is about to roll right over his business.

The Long Beach Harbor Commission recently gave the go-ahead on plans to build an $820 million railyard that proponents say will cut pollution and speed up cargo handling at the nation’s second busiest ports.

Jan 19, 2018

It’s full speed ahead at the Port of Long Beach in 2018

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As much as any seaport, the Port of Long Beach is closely tied to its namesake city. In Long Beach, our port is the economic engine that powers the region, with our operations sustaining 30,000 jobs within the city’s borders, and more than 300,000 jobs around Southern California.

As 2018 begins, the people of Long Beach will be proud to know their port finished its busiest year in our 107-year history. Our container terminals and longshore workers topped the previous high of 7.3 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2007, before the Great Global Recession.

It’s worth noting the remarkable turnaround we experienced in 2017 compared to the year before. In August 2016, the operator of our biggest terminal filed for bankruptcy. We faced intense international competition and questions about our decision to go forward with the most comprehensive environmental standards anywhere in the world.

However, we moved quickly. And so, within a few months, we leased our idled terminal to Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s second-largest ocean carrier. The shipping line recognized the great potential of the facility — one of the finest in North America — and our commitment to being leaders in productivity, reliability and efficiency.

A few weeks ago, we topped out the towers for the replacement to the Gerald Desmond Bridge. These 515-foot-tall towers are the tallest points in Long Beach. This new “bridge to everywhere,” scheduled to open as early as next year, is going to be a landmark. It will be high enough for large ships and wide enough for extra traffic lanes, with a separate bike and pedestrian path to be enjoyed by the community.

Being a good community partner is a top priority at the Port of Long Beach. Last year, the Board of Harbor Commissioners budgeted $1 million for sponsorships to support arts and other civic events, the most ever. And we awarded funds from the $46.4 million Community Grants Program, the largest voluntary effort of its kind in the nation aimed at mitigating the impacts of goods movement.

Together, with the Port of Los Angeles, our Harbor Commission also approved an updated Clean Air Action Plan that incorporated input from numerous public meetings to balance the needs of our business partners and the community, to build on the great gains we’ve made in cleaning the air in the last decade. port-related diesel particulate matter is down by 88 percent since 2005. It’s one of the many reasons we have a well-earned reputation as the world’s greenest port. We believe the technologies to reach our goal of becoming a zero-emissions seaport will come faster than anyone imagines.

This month we have released the final environmental impact report for a project that is vital to meeting both our environmental and operational goals that are key to retaining and growing trade.

The project, the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility, would enable the Port to assemble longer trains by connecting smaller train segments coming from some of our busiest container terminals. Moving more cargo by rail reduces the number of trucks on the road.

We began studying this project many years ago, and we are now proposing a project that will benefit the community with reduced truck traffic and cleaner air, and help to speed cargo to its destination. Containers will be moved to and from Pier B only on trains, with no cargo truck operations at the new facility.

Right now, rail operators at the port do not have the space to link train cars easily. Many trains leaving the Port are now assembled on mainline tracks. This limitation in capacity can result in cargo being trucked to the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in West Long Beach or East Los Angeles rail yards, creating air pollution and traffic congestion.

The Pier B project would bring significant relief, allowing workers to build mile-long trains and some even longer. Each mile-long train can take as many as 750 trucks off the roadways.

Today, the Port of Long Beach’s on-dock rail use has plateaued at 25 percent. Our goal is to move 35 percent of our containers via on-dock rail in the near term and eventually, 50 percent, to meet the goals identified in the Clean Air Action Plan. We cannot meet those goals without the facility.

We hope you’ll support it when the Harbor Commission considers the environmental study on Jan. 22.

The Port of Long Beach thanks our tenants, dockworkers, truckers, railroads and all the rest of our partners who made last year so spectacular. We wish everyone a prosperous and healthy 2018.

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As much as any seaport, the Port of Long Beach is closely tied to its namesake city. In Long Beach, our port is the economic engine that powers the region, with our operations sustaining 30,000 jobs within the city’s borders, and more than 300,000 jobs around Southern California.

Jan 25, 2018

5 of the most congested truck bottlenecks are on Southern California freeways

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Big rigs are common on Southland freeways, thanks in part to the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex, and a report released Thursday found that Los Angeles County is home to two of the country’s top 15 truck bottlenecks.

According to the study by the American Transportation Research Institute, seven of the nation’s 65 worst truck bottlenecks are in California.

The 60 Freeway interchange with the 57 Freeway in Diamond Bar ranked fifth on the list. The 710 Freeway at the 105 Freeway in the Paramount/Lynwood area came in at number 13.

“California not only is our nation’s most populous state, but with our farms, key ports and border crossings it is our gateway to the world’s markets, making it a key state for the trucking industry,” California Trucking Association CEO Shawn Yadon said in a statement. “Congestion costs trucking billions of dollars and harms our economy. ATRI’s report makes clear where the biggest issues lie and we urge policymakers to quickly address them with much needed investment.”

Atlanta’s “Spaghetti Junction” — the interchange of interstates 285 and 85 North — ranked as the most congested freight bottleneck in the country.

The 15 Freeway at state Route 91 in Corona ranked 45th on the list, while the 110 Freeway at the 105 Freeway came in at number 64. The 10 Freeway interchange with the 15 in San Bernardino came in 27th. Two interchanges in Oakland also placed in the top 65.

The rankings are based on GPS data from more than 800,000 heavy-duty trucks and include an assessment of truck congestion at 300 locations across the country.

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Big rigs are common on Southland freeways, thanks in part to the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex, and a report released Thursday found that Los Angeles County is home to two of the country’s top 15 truck bottlenecks.

According to the study by the American Transportation Research Institute, seven of the nation’s 65 worst truck bottlenecks are in California.

Dec 11, 2017

ILWU's next organizing move?

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After scoring a second contract for newly organized superintendents, a marine clerks division of the international Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) told its rank-and-file that another terminal was in its sights. The ILWU marine clerks division in Southern California negotiated its second contract for newly organized superintendents, and in a message to employers, the ILWU boasted in its Nov. 17 newsletter that it has another terminal in its sights. The ILWU marine clerks division in Southern California negotiated its second contract for newly organized superintendents, and in a message to employers, the ILWU boasted in its Nov. 17 newsletter that it has another terminal in its sights. ILWU Local 63 in late September signed a super intendent contract with Eagle Marine Services (APL) for its terminal in Los Angeles. The union announced that it signed a second contract, this one with Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals. "The superintendents at Eagle Marine and Pasha, with support from the international and Local 63 have bargained their first contracts. The West Coast Terminal & Stevedore (WCTS) superintendents were close behind," the union stated in its newsletter. WCTS operates the International Transportation Services ("K" Line) terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach consider the PAL contract to be a major development that could lead to the loss of management supervisory control of container terminals on the West Coast. In effect, ILWU superintendents will be supevising ILWU marine clerks or longshoremen. The new Pasha contract involves a primarily breakbulk faciity, so the terms of the contract are different than those in the APL agreement and are therefore not expected to establish a precedent for container terminals .

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Jan 12, 2018

Multi-million plan to reduce pollution begins with conversion of cranes at Port of Long Beach

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One of the largest sources of dirty air along a Long Beach port terminal will be eliminated as part of a $41 million plan to jump start wider use of electric vehicles and clean up transportation pollution, officials announced this week.

The California Public Utility Commission approved a project that will allow Southern California Edison to help convert nine diesel-powered cranes into clean-burning electric cranes at the Port of Long Beach, one of the region’s largest standing sources of pollution.

The project is part of a larger plan that gives state’s three major publicly-owned electric utility companies the go-ahead on more than a dozen pilot projects aimed at kick starting the electrification of vehicles. The projects include installing ultra fast electric-vehicle charging stations in urban areas and building out stations for buses.

“It’s a big deal,” said Adrian Martinez, a lawyer at Earthjustice, a pro-environmental group. “These projects will save lives. They will eliminate tail pipe emissions for lots of equipment, including that in Long Beach.”

Southern California Edison estimates it will cost customers about 3 cents a month to cover the costs of four projects.

The efforts are part of a state law directing publicly-owned utilities to invest in widespread transportation electrification with the goal of bringing California closer to its 2030 goal to reduce greenhouse gasses to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Later this year, the commission is expected to consider an even bigger, $1 billion effort to expand electrification.

“Electrifying transportation represents the largest near-term opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive down pollution that impacts public health,” Ron Nichols, SCE president, said in a statement.

The soon-to-be converted cranes in Long Beach hover above the SSA Terminal, where they account for the second largest source of smog-forming nitrous oxide, or about 6 percent of the pollutant created every year at the port.

Eliminating it will diminish a fraction of the overall toxin produced at the port. The largest source is created by diesel-powered ships.

Last year, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach vowed to bring the nation’s largest port complex to near zero-emissions by 2030 in line with state goals.

The area surrounding the ports have higher than average rates of asthma, and residents suffer other respiratory problems linked to port pollution.

Amid pressure from community and environmental groups, both ports have been investing in green technology. The Long Beach port is already home to a $1.5 billion all-electric terminal that’s seen as a model for green shipping.

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One of the largest sources of dirty air along a Long Beach port terminal will be eliminated as part of a $41 million plan to jump start wider use of electric vehicles and clean up transportation pollution, officials announced this week.

The California Public Utility Commission approved a project that will allow Southern California Edison to help convert nine diesel-powered cranes into clean-burning electric cranes at the Port of Long Beach, one of the region’s largest standing sources of pollution.

Jan 09, 2018

Trucking companies accused of abuse

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The city of Los Angeles filed three lawsuits against some of the busiest port trucking companies in the country Monday, demanding they stop systematically exploting their workers in the wake of reports by the USA TODAY NETWORK.

"This abuse, this disgraceful exploitation has to stop," City Attorney Mike Feuer said at a news conference Monday, citing the network's "scathing" coverage of the industry.

Feuer alleged CMI Transportation K&R Transportation and California Cartage Transportation Express represent industry leaders that knowingly violate state labor laws with "devastating practices" meant to increase executives' bottom lines while driving their workers into debt.

"we're trying to create systemic change, and we'll continue to investifate other companies as well," Feuer said.

The three companies are part of the California Cartage family of outfits recently bought by New Jersey-based NFI Industries. Those companies helped spearhead the lease-to-own contracts that havce became pervasive.

"Denying workers fair wages and benefits to pad profit margins is unacceptable," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "We will not stand for it in Los Angeles."

The lawsuit seeks penalties, restitution and a prohibition against practices that lead to worker exploitation, according to the complaints.

Representatives at NFI and California Cartage did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday about the suits filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

"I would question the standing or merit of this lawsuit, but that is for the courts to decide," said Weston LaBar, chief executive officer of the Harbor Trucking Association, who called the state's history of judgments in favor of port truckers "completely one-sided."

The USA TODAY NETWORK reported that more than 1,100 California port truck drivers filed labor complaints in civil court and with the state labor commissioner since 2008. That year, a new California environmental law requred trucking companies serving state ports to replace old trrucks with new, cleaner rigs.

To avoid the cost, many firms pushed their independent drivers into lease-to-own contracts that they could not afford.

When drivers got sick or fell behind on payments, trucking companies fired them, seizing their trucks and tens of thousands of dollars they had paid toward buying them.

Monday's legal action is the latest in a wave of changes affecting the port trucking industry after USA TODAY NETWORKS coverage.

Since the Network began reporting last spring, drivers have filed 23 california Labor Commissioner cases and six civil lawsuits, including three class actions, agianst port trucking companies. Companies exposed in the Network's reporting have lost business. At least one executive resigned. State and federal agencies have luanched investigations into potential worker exploitation and lawmakers have introduced national and state bills aimed at curbing labor abuse.

"The revelations about the abuse of workers in the port trucking industry should outrage every american," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote to President Turmp in November.

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The city of Los Angeles filed three lawsuits against some of the busiest port trucking companies in the country Monday, demanding they stop systematically exploting their workers in the wake of reports by the USA TODAY NETWORK.

"This abuse, this disgraceful exploitation has to stop," City Attorney Mike Feuer said at a news conference Monday, citing the network's "scathing" coverage of the industry.

Jan 08, 2018

L.A. city attorney files suit over treatment of truck drivers who serve ports

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Alleging that hundreds of port truck drivers are being denied wages and benefits, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Monday lawsuits against three trucking companies that he said relegated many of the drivers to poverty despite long hours of work.

“This abuse, this disgraceful exploitation, has to stop,” he said at a press event Monday in downtown Los Angeles.

The move comes amid increased pressure from politicians and union officials to address the plight of truck drivers who haul billions of dollars worth of retail goods from the nation’s largest port complex.

“We allege these (port trucking companies) are taking advantage of these hard-working drivers who struggle every day just to make ends meet,” Feuer said. “We allege these practices these employers are engaged in only to increase their bottom line.”

The three companies, CMI Transportation, K&R Transportation California and Cal Cartage Transportation Express, are held by California Cartage. Company representatives declined to comment.

The company, which operates in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area, was recently sold to New Jersey-based carrier National Freight Industries.

The companies controlled drivers’ schedules and tied them to an expensive truck lease, the lawsuits state. Despite having the trappings of employment, the companies used them as contractors.

Feuer said his office is also investigating other trucking companies that control workers’ schedules.

The accusations are nothing new.

The Teamsters, which is organizing truck drivers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, has staged more than a dozen strikes over the past four years protesting worker wages. At the same time, hundreds of drivers have filed claims with the California Labor Commission for back wages. The union says more than $35 million in back wages and penalties have been paid out.

Weston La Bar, chief executive officer of the Harbor Trucking Association, a trade group for trucking companies, said he doubted Monday’s filing had merits. He said the lawsuit appeared to be another effort by officials to knock down independent contractor models favored by many trucking companies.

Last year, the Los Angeles City Council asked Feuer to investigate ways the city could ban trucking and warehouse companies that break local, state and federal law after a USA Today investigation detailed how the practice was forcing some workers into debt.

Feuer said the lawsuit is not part of that effort; the investigation had been in the works separately.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents San Pedro, praised Monday’s move to put an “end to the modern day sharecropping that is taking place on public property,”

Port officials had sought to block companies that use the contracting model by creating a mandate under a 2008 Clean Truck Program that drivers be employees. The effort, however, was struck down in court.

“Denying workers fair wages and benefits to pad profit margins is unacceptable, and we will not stand for it in Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday. “I fully support the City Attorney’s action against these unfair practices.”

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Alleging that hundreds of port truck drivers are being denied wages and benefits, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Monday lawsuits against three trucking companies that he said relegated many of the drivers to poverty despite long hours of work.

“This abuse, this disgraceful exploitation, has to stop,” he said at a press event Monday in downtown Los Angeles.