9 Images

Keeping their rigs rolling

Truckers can have tread carved into their balding tires by llanteros, or tire men, before getting on the Harbor or Long Beach freeways. Regrooving is legal, according to California traffic codes, provided the tires are designed for it and their inner steel belts are not damaged in the process. “When they cut into the steel belt, that tire becomes a bomb,” said Harvey Brodsky, spokesman for the Tire Retread and Repair Information Bureau. “It’s a shame and a disgrace, and an example of what’s going on in our ports.” (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A truck cab and the Vincent Thomas Bridge are silhouetted against the predawn sky at the Port of Los Angeles. Many truckers park along a dirt shoulder in San Pedro to rest, eat and have discount -- and sometimes illegal -- repairs made to their rigs. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A llantero cuts new grooves into a truck tire for $12. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
in Wilmington, a repairman sands a fiberglass repair made to a truck. The “shops” here -- sometimes nothing more than open lots hidden behind sheets of corrugated metal -- charge far less than dealerships. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Mechanic Andres Camarillo works on a truck axle in a back-street Wilmington repair shop. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Antonio repairs a truck tire flattened by a nail along a roadside in San Pedro. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Augusto Arroche holds a damaged headlight assembly from his truck at a back-street repair yard in Wilmington. He also had a crack in the rig’s hood repaired. “A dealer would charge about $3,000 for this job, and take two weeks to do it,” he said. “Here, they’re charging $700 — and they agreed to let me pay $400 today and the rest later. At 3 p.m. I’ll be back on the road.” (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Elias Payan works on an engine at a licensed shop in Wilmington. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Rigs drive in and out of the Port of Long Beach with the stacks of the Queen Mary in the background. Profit margins for the independent truckers who serve the nation’s busiest port complex are thin, so some cut costs whenever possible, even if that means risky and illegal repairs to their vehicles. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)