The Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports is an alliance of environmental, labor, faith, and community organizations that promote sustainable economic development at American ports.
Some 1,800 old, rundown diesel trucks move thousands of cargo containers from the Port of Seattle's docks to warehouses in Kent and rail yards in South Seattle every day, spewing pollution into our yards, schools and offices. The port trucking industry falls short both in terms of workers' rights, with poor working conditions and low wages, and public health-diesel pollution at ports is associated with high rates of cancer and asthma. Further, port truck drivers are exposed to toxic diesel emissions as their trucks idle while they wait for their next load.
Prior to the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, port truck drivers enjoyed a middle class standard of living. Today, big box retailers and steam ship lines are fueling a race to the bottom among trucking companies by seeking rates below the actual cost to move goods. This forces trucking companies to compete by undercutting each other and paying drivers less. Billion-dollar corporations benefit while communities and drivers pay with their health.
Since deregulation, many trucking companies re-labeled employees as "independent contractors." The trucking companies now pass the cost of owning and maintaining trucks on to drivers and avoid paying payroll taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and workers' compensation because the drivers aren't classified as employees. The result is a workforce that lives in poverty and does not have the resources to operate clean trucks.
What's at Stake
Port of Seattle Commissioners recently passed a Clean Trucks Plan in an effort to clean up the air at the Port. Unfortunately, the plan will result in an even greater financial burden on drivers, and, in turn, fail to significantly reduce diesel emissions from the trucks in the long-run.
The core of the Port's plan is a ban on the dirtiest trucks (pre-1994 trucks) from port docks, starting at the end of 2010. Under this plan, workers with banned trucks must buy retrofitted trucks or lose their jobs; retrofit trucks would cost $150 - $500/month each-costs workers and their families cannot afford, even with the proposed public purchase of the banned trucks.
We are working to make the Port trucking industry more efficient, reduce air pollution, and improve the quality of jobs. CC&SP strongly supports the adoption of a Comprehensive Clean Trucks Management Plan by the Seattle Port Commission that would:
Require all port trucking firms to enter into concession agreements that incorporate environmental, community and labor standards;
Grant misclassified "independent" drivers employee status, giving them the right to join a union and organize for better working conditions;
Require trucking companies to invest in and operate a clean emission truck fleet, putting the financial costs on the shippers; and
Require trucking companies to provide off-street parking for trucks outside residential neighborhoods.
Watch these videos to learn more about the environmental impacts of of the Port of Seattle and about the struggles of truck drivers at the Port of Seattle.