With the lackluster trade data of 2008 fast becoming a memory, the question of what we have to look forward to for 2009 jumps to the fore. Will it be more (or worse) of the same? Slight recovery? Further downturn? Most prognosticators don’t give much hope for a quick turnaround in the near term, and that might not be too bad, considering that cargo handling faces some significant near-term challenges in Southern California.
Trucking is a noteworthy component of the industry due for some significant sorting out. The legal battle between the Port of Los Angeles, the Federal Maritime Commission and the trucking industry over the concession issue awaits an outcome that has the potential to change the landscape of goods movement for the region. This issue, intertwined with the final arrival of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential in mid-April, is creating a pensive mood. Will the trucking component of harbor operations generally survive in its current configuration, or are we in for a significant new look to the industry? Will there be sufficient assets to move cargo, given the anticipated shakeout of drivers anticipated in the TWIC vetting process?
No matter how these issues evolve, the harbor trucking industry is in for a distinct new look. The first move in that reconfiguration is already under way with the move to eliminate aging, dirty trucks and replace them with their significantly cleaner descendants. This will be a major upside to ports’ air quality. The question that remains to be answered is how these various changes will affect the fundamentals of goods movement. The answer should be forthcoming by midyear, just in time for the peak (?) season.