L.A. City Council sides with port workers in autonomous trucks appeal

July 2, 2019

Tyson Fisher


Truckers at the Port of Los Angeles scored a win against automated technology after the Los Angeles City Council ruled union workers get to appeal a decision to allow driverless trucks at one of the port’s biggest terminals.

On June 28, the Los Angeles City Council voted on a measure that had been approved by the Board of Harbor Commissioners to permit certain driverless trucks. The council voted 12-0 with three abstentions to veto the board’s actions, effectively disallowing driverless trucks at the port for now.

The vote is the latest chapter in a series of actions that began with the Board of Harbor Commissioners approving Coastal Development Permit No. 18-25, which allows zero-and near zero-emissions operating equipment at Maersk-owned APM Terminals’ Pier 400 Marine Terminal.

The Harbor Commissioners approved the measure with a 3-2 vote earlier this year, which prompted the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 to file an appeal on Feb. 21. The union claims the new equipment will result in automation that will have a negative impact on employment. The board denied the appeal on June 20.

APM countered the union’s claim by stating the infrastructure improvements and associated equipment that were approved align with the Port Master Plan and the California Coastal Act. Furthermore, APM said that issues surrounding employment and automations “are not a basis upon which an appeal may be granted to overturn” the approval, according to a letter from APM to Board of Harbor Commissioners dated March 15.

According to APM, automation is expressly provided for under the collective bargaining agreements between the union and the Pacific Maritime Association.

The permitting process began last September. According to a Board of Harbor Commissioners permit report dated Jan. 8, the permit allows APM “to install charging stations for battery-electric-powered equipment, scaffolding to create a vertical racking system for the refrigerated containers, traffic barriers and fencing for drayage hauler safety, small antennas for Wi-Fi, and related infrastructure to support operation of the equipment.”

Project costs were estimated to be $1.3 million, which will be paid by APM.

After the Board of Harbor Commissioners denied the appeal of permit approval on June 20, the matter was handed to the L.A. City Council. One week later, the council agreed that the board wrongfully denied an appeal.

“The potential consequences of this action are substantial and the Board should be provided with the opportunity to reconsider the appeal and make a deliberative decision,” the council ruled. “Action is needed to assert jurisdiction over this matter so that Council can veto the effective action of the Board of Harbor Commissioners and send it back to the Board for further review.”

Although union workers will get their chance to appeal the permit, APM is poised to move forward with the automated equipment since the board that denied the appeal is the same board that will now hear the appeal.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.