The Arlington, Virginia-based trade group estimates over 10,000 independent truckers will be prohibited from the Los Angeles port, which is banning independent truckers as of October 1 to tighten control over emissions.
The ATA charged that the plans are unfair for independent truckers and are at odds with federal legislation on the matter, according to a copy of the suit.
The ban, the ATA said, is an attempt to squeeze out independent motor carriers in favor of larger trucking companies.
The Port of Long Beach will continue to allow independent truckers.
By October, trucking companies must hand over more information about their operational procedures before gaining access to the two Southern California ports. The ATA argues these future requirements are intended to micro-image the federal safety and security standards of the trucking industry rather than rectify air pollution concerns.
"We firmly believe that these... (requirements) unlawfully re-regulate the port trucking industry to the detriment of motor carriers, shippers, and the businesses and consumers that depend on the products that are handled at those ports," said ATA president and chief executive officer Bill Graves in a statement following the filing of the lawsuit.
Pre-1989 model trucks will be banned from both ports this fall and trucks older than 2007 models will be denied access beginning in 2012. The industry group agrees with the need for cleaner trucks and stated it "does not challenge the (ports') truck-engine retirement programs" in its lawsuit filing.
Port officials said the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, would not derail their plans for cleaner trucks. Port emissions are one of the biggest sources of pollution in California.
"It is disappointing that the ATA is seeking to impede this critical air quality initiative," said Port of Long Beach executive director Richard Steinke. "Despite this litigation, we are still moving full speed ahead toward our goal of reducing pollution from the truck fleet by 80 percent by 2012."
(Reporting by Jennifer Martinez; Editing by Mary Milliken)