LOS ANGELES - A federal judge ruled Aug. 26 that the Port of Los Angeles can fully implement its Clean Trucks Program, including a controversial provision that restricts the types of truckers that can enter port terminals, the Daily Breeze newspaper reported. 

The decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, upheld the harbor department's authority to require concession agreements for each truck carrying cargo in or out of the port. Those agreements are a key part of the Clean Trucks Program aimed at replacing aging diesel trucks at the port with newer, lower-emission trucks. 

However, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said it would continue its legal efforts to keep an injunction in place to block part of the plan from being implemented. The plan requires that truck drivers carrying goods in and out of the port must be employees of trucking companies; they can't be independent truck owner-operators. ATA has argued that federal laws addressing interstate commerce prohibit the port from imposing such employment restrictions. 

It was the ATA that filed a federal lawsuit shortly after the $1.6 billion Clean Trucks Program launched in October 2008.

But in her decision, Judge Snyder wrote that the port is setting such restrictions in its role as a business and landlord -- not as a regulatory agency. The port, she argued, is protecting its business interests by taking steps to address the diesel emissions that have made the port a longtime target of clean-air lawsuits. Further, she ruled that the employer requirements help ensure that truck drivers work for companies with the financial resources to maintain a fleet of cleaner-fuel trucks, the L.A. Times reported. 

Curtis Whalen, executive director of the ATA's Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, told the L.A. Times that he expected the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately decide the program's fate.