Keep on Trucking--at Nighttime : Traffic: Shifting deliveries to off-peak hours would unclog the city's streets; business will go along if citizens speak up.

Tom Bradley is the mayor of Los Angeles

Trucks and accidents involving oversized rigs generate 25% of traffic congestion in Los Angeles.

In June, 1987, I announced an 18-part Free Flowing Traffic Plan to relieve traffic congestion. The Truck Management Program, to be heard today by the city Transportation Committee, is the ninth initiative of my 1987 proposal. I conducted three years of public hearings, research, analysis and negotiations, including 400 meetings with the trucking industry, business and community leaders.

During the negotiations, adjustments were made to satisfy almost every objection raised. As a result, my proposed truck management plan provides a thoughtful solution to mitigating congestion produced by heavy-duty trucks (those with three or more axles).

Unfortunately, my truck plan is opposed by some of California's most powerful special interests. They falsely charge that truck restrictions will create additional costs for business and a loss of jobs for minorities. The California Trucking Assn. has repeatedly used unsubstantiated claims and heavy-handed scare tactics to attack the plan as anti-business legislation. The association asserts that the truck management program will raise consumer prices because of less-efficient delivery runs.

I find this argument ironic, considering that the association fought vehemently against the deregulation of freight rates by the Public Utilities Commission--a battle that the association eventually lost, which ultimately saved consumers and businesses millions of dollars in decreased freight charges.

A city with limited land has three options to reduce traffic congestion:

-- Increase the capacity of existing streets.

-- Decrease traffic during peak hours.

-- Manage existing thoroughfares more efficiently.

The first option imposes high costs to taxpayers that can escalate to hundreds of millions of dollars. Constructing additional streets requires the acquisition of land and the displacement of families from their homes. The second and third options are substantially less expensive; that is why I am pursuing them.

Last November, I introduced and voters approved Proposition C, to support and fund transportation programs. Those funds will finance the truck program, and all residents will receive a significant return on their investment. At an estimated cost of $3.7 million for the first year and $2.8 million annually thereafter, the Truck Management Plan is a relatively inexpensive way to reduce gridlock on city streets during peak commuter hours. The key elements of the plan include:

-- Requiring trucks to meet state and federal safety standards to reduce the risk of accidents.

-- Reducing the number of trucks on city streets during peak hours by 70%.

-- Requiring shippers and receivers that generate eight or more daytime shipments by heavy-duty trucks during a business week to remain open for up to four hours between 7:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. in order to receive shipments.

-- Providing a 24-hour response team to deal with big-rig accidents.

The goals of the plan are to alleviate congestion and increase mobility during peak commute hours and reduce air pollution caused by the congestion generated by heavy-duty trucks. Under my plan, 70% of a company's heavy-duty trucks would be restricted from using city streets during the morning rush hours from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and the evening peak travel period from 4 to 7 p.m. The remaining 30% would be authorized to operate during these peak times to allow critical deliveries to continue and ensure minimal disruption to local business.

During the Summer Olympics in 1984, a voluntary program met with considerable success and demonstrated that my truck management plan will work.

Evidence to date shows that off-peak-hour deliveries would be a substantial cost-savings measure for business. More than a year ago, Los Angeles County shifted a majority of its heavy-duty truck deliveries and shipments to off-peak hours. As a result, the county has seen a significant decrease in the overall cost of delivering goods: Overtime costs have been cut by two-thirds and, because trucks are not forced to sit in backlogged traffic, fuel costs have plummeted.

Furthermore, many trucking company executives, recognizing potential cost-savings, have long desired to make off-peak hour deliveries but assumed that shippers and receivers would not accommodate late-night shipments. It was not until the city convened meetings with all concerned parties that it became clear that receivers of goods would cooperatively accept after-hours deliveries.

My plan does require some businesses to make adjustments in their employee and delivery schedules. However, I would urge companies to look beyond these short-term, temporary inconveniences to the potential long-term benefits of decreased costs.

The truck management plan is not a panacea for our traffic problems. It is just one part of a multipronged approach. We must continue to utilize existing ride-share programs and public transportation. We must also provide options to the traditional work schedule such as flextime and telecommuting.

Both the public and private sectors must assume their fair share of responsibility to solve the transportation and environmental ills that plague us. It is time the trucking industry joins our efforts.

Every individual and business in this city is part of the transportation problem, and every individual and business must contribute to its solution.

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