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West Coast chassis lessor refuses to pay for ILWU inspections







Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Jul 17, 2015 4:40PM EDT










TRAC Intermodal, one of the largest chassis leasing companies on the West Coast, threw a monkey wrench into a controversial clause in the new International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract by refusing to pay for mandatory roadability inspections by the union.










In a letter Wednesday to several marine terminal operators, TRAC said it believes the invoices it received for ILWU safety inspections performed at West Coast marine terminals “are inappropriate and not compliant with the law.”




By challenging the legality of the safety inspections, TRAC may be giving trucking companies and cargo interests on both coasts the opportunity they have been looking for to directly contest a practice they say adds unnecessary cost and time to marine terminal transactions and contributes to port congestion.




The requirement for mandatory dock worker “roadability” inspections of chassis before the equipment is pulled from marine terminals is an explosive issue on both coasts. 



This issue held up contract negotiations this past year between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association.    




Likewise on the East Coast, the American Trucking Associations, among others, has disputed the legality of mandatory roadability inspections in New York-New Jersey. 





The TRAC challenge to inspections on the West Coast “very much elevates” the issue on the East Coast, Curtis Whalen, executive director of ATA’s intermodal conference, said Friday.




The International Longshoremen’s Association next week will hold its quadrennial convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Chassis jurisdiction is expected to be a major issue, as it has been for the past few years.




ILA President Harold Daggett, who rose through the ranks of the ILA mechanics local in New York-New Jersey, told the JOC’s Trans-Pacific Maritime conference in March 2012 that maintaining ILA jurisdiction over chassis inspections, maintenance and repair could be a game-breaker in that year’s contract negotiations. The eventual agreement gave the ILA the right to inspect chassis roadability at terminals.




The ILA and the United States Maritime Alliance have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension that could push their current East and Gulf coast master contract into 2025. The current contract is set to expire in 2018.




On the West Coast, the ILWU views the controversy over chassis jurisdiction as the result of employers failing to uphold their part of a bargain that was reached in previous contracts. The ILWU agreed to accept automation and employers in return would ensure union jurisdiction over chassis inspections and repairs.



Bobby Olvera, president of ILWU Local 13 in Southern California, told the AgTC conference in San Francisco last month,“We agreed to automation. A promise is a promise.”


Trucking companies and equipment lessors who oppose ILWU and ILA mandatory safety inspections say there is no provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act granting jurisdiction to terminals or longshore unions for the inspections. They note that the act requires that the intermodal equipment provider (in this case the chassis leasing companies) must, at the time of interchange with the trucker, provide a "roadable" chassis, and the truck driver must perform an inspection to ensure basic features such as brake lights and tires are in good operating condition.




TRAC in its letter to the terminal operators said it is not a party to the PMA-ILWU contract, “and we have consistently objected to the PMA entering into any agreement pertaining to the inspection and/or repair of chassis that the PMA members neither own nor lease.”



Truckers and chassis leasing companies charge that the dock worker inspections are redundant as well as being illegal.
 “By the time the chassis roadability inspection occurs on your terminal, the chassis has already been interchanged to the motor carrier and the required FMCSA driver roadability inspection has already been completed,” TRAC stated.



Also, TRAC stated that it is unaware of any provision in the West Coast Marine Terminal Operators Association tariff that imposes a charge on chassis owners for such inspections.
 “Nor do we believe such a charge would be lawful in view of the fact that at the time and point of the inspection, the chassis is under the control of, and on lease to, a motor carrier,” the letter stated.




John Cushing, president of PierPass Inc. and secretary of WCMTOA, a discussion agreement among the terminal operators that has been approved by the Federal Maritime Commission, confirmed Friday that the agreement does not have a chassis inspection or maintenance and repair tariff on file with the FMC. 


By contrast, WCMTOA has filed other tariff rates with the commission, such the PierPass traffic mitigation fee.






Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bill.mongelluzzo@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter:@billmongelluzzo.









http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshore-and-warehouse-union/west-coast-chassis-lessor-refuses-pay-ilwu-inspections_20150717.html




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