LOS ANGELES --- Hundreds of truck drivers converged on Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, Nov. 13, to protest new restrictions set forth in the year-old Clean Truck Program aimed at reducing diesel truck emissions at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach. 

Outside Los Angeles City Hall, some truckers held signs that read, "Villaraigosa, Don't Tread on Me" and "NPDA Wants to Go Green. Help Us!" The protest was organized by the National Port Drivers Association, made up of independent owner-operator truckers, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The Clean Truck Program already prohibits pre-1989 trucks from entering the ports. Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, 1989-1993 trucks that haven't been retrofitted to reduce emissions will also be barred from the ports. And beginning Jan. 1, 2012, all trucks that don't meet the 2007 Federal Clean Truck Emissions Standards will be barred. 

The National Port Drivers Association is pushing for an extension of the deadlines, grant funding made available to independent truckers to help pay for retrofits and cleaner trucks, and an investigation of the program. The association also opposes the Port of Los Angeles' mandate that requires all drivers to be employees of trucking companies by 2013. 

Ronald Martinez, vice president of the NPDA, called the Clean Truck Program "unconstitutional." According to the Daily Breeze newspaper, he said: "The port is giving grants to the companies, but the independent drivers are not getting anything, and we are being forced into a situation we don't want to be in. We would like to see less pollution, but we would also like to be independent and be able to afford those new trucks." 

But backers of the Clean Truck Program argue that the program's approach reflects economic realities and is necessary to clean up the air quality for residents and workers in the harbor area. 

"When we developed this program, one of the problems we identified early on was that many of these independent drivers did not have the financial wherewithal to own and operate a clean truck, despite the amount of public funding available to them," Arley Baker, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, told the Daily Breeze. "They're feeling the squeeze, unfortunately. That's the reason why our program includes licensed motor carriers, who have more capital and the ability to turn over their trucking fleets."