WILMINGTON, Calif. --- The Los Angeles Harbor Commission on March 20 approved a plan requiring shipping companies to buy and maintain their own modern truck fleets and employ their own drivers. This is in contrast to the system now used, in which the port's shipping companies rely on independent contractors who own, maintain and operate their own trucks, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Los Angeles authorities backed the plan because they believe that low-income independent drivers can't afford to purchase the modern $100,000 trucks needed to comply with more stringent emissions and air quality standards.

"The existing system is a scam," Los Angeles Harbor Commission President David Freeman told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a scheme by shipping companies to avoid responsibilities of an employer, and we're calling a halt to it."

However, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association said the group plans to sue the port over the new plan. Association representative Curtis Whalen called the plan a "scheme to unionize port drivers" and said it violates court rulings that ensure the trucking industry unrestricted access to markets nationwide, the L.A. Times reported.

The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports both recently approved a progressive five-year ban on high-emission trucks that begins Oct. 1.

The new plan will also subject the port's truck drivers to federal background checks.