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LA Port Plan Gains Support

Plan to clean up the air around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach got a boost when two members of the trucking association that sued to stop it agreed to participate in the program.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A plan to clean up the air around the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach got a boost when two large members of the trucking association that sued to stop the plan agreed to participate in the program.

The American Trucking Associations filed a federal lawsuit last month against both cities after reviewing a truck replacement plan that would force thousands of independent truckers who work at the port to eventually become employees of trucking companies.

The group, which represents 37,000 trucking companies, had no immediate comment after learning Thursday that two Phoenix-based ATA haulers signed onto the program.

The haulers that signed onto the program include Swift Transportation Co., which has 37 major terminals in 26 states and Mexico; and Knight Transportation Inc., which has 2008 model trucks on nearly half its fleet.

"These are both well-known, national trucking companies. They are very serious players," said Paul Bingham, managing director of trade and transportation markets for economic research firm Global Insight.

Some California trucking companies were upset that any member would sign up for a plan that could put them out of business.

"I'm taken aback," Michael Lightman, owner of Long Beach-based Great Freight Inc., told the Los Angeles Times. "Now, they are going to out-of-state companies rather than dealing with California trucking businesses that have been hauling cargo in and out of the ports for the past 25 to 30 years."

Both cities passed plans earlier this year aimed at reducing truck pollution at the nation's busiest cargo container complex by as much as 80 percent. The plans would require trucks to meet tougher 2007 federal emissions standards by 2012, along with a $35 cargo fee to pay for the newer, cleaner-running trucks.

The ATA has said it does not oppose efforts to clean up the air but is concerned that other measures in the plans violate federal laws by unfairly regulating prices, routes and services.

The Arizona companies said that the letters of intent made sense because both already had customers who moved goods through the ports and had expressed concerns about their ability to get their products delivered promptly.

"We have 1,400 trucks equipped with the newest diesel technology. The ports have a need for clean trucks and we have customers that need that service," said Kevin Knight, chief executive of Knight Transportation. "I think it's a good fit."

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