The congestion at marine terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach that has plagued harbor truckers for much of the year is beginning to dissipate, thanks to a working group formed by truckers, the ports and terminal operators.
Josh Owen, president of Ability TriModal, told a meeting of the California Trucking Association Wednesday that his drivers are reporting shorter waits at the terminals. "I hope you're seeing quicker turn times, too," he said.
A working group of industry stakeholders that was formed this summer appears to be the catalyst for the reduction in congestion at the nation's busiest port complex. About 30 members of the working group met for the first time on July 29, and had a follow-up meeting last week.
By The Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Southern California Ports.
Owen, a co-chair of the group along with Bruce Wargo, president of PierPass, said terminal operators have implemented several suggestions that were made at the July 29 meeting. One of the most important steps was for 11 of the 13 container terminal operators to return to five extended gates each week.
Terminal operators last year eliminated a weeknight or Saturday day gate during the economic recession. When cargo volume increased by about 15 percent in the first half of this year, terminals were slow bringing back the fifth gate. Now, all but two terminals with relatively low cargo volume are running five extended gates each week.
Also, Owen noted, a number of terminals are running a flex gate from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday. Terminals had been shutting their gates at 5 p.m. at the end of the day shift, and then reopening their gates at 6 p.m. for the night gate. Long lines were forming during the downtime.
While such short-term measures will help the ports remain fluid during the fall peak-shipping season, the working group is already looking ahead to the long-term to prepare for a return to normal cargo volumes.
Owen said the working group is discussing a number of suggestions, including a port-wide appointment system for truckers. Harbor truckers are willing to discuss appointments, but their experience with terminals that currently have appointment systems indicates operational challenges remain, Owen said.
All port stakeholders realize that the port industry today is very competitive, and Southern California's market share is under attack, so the ports, truckers and terminal operators must work together to maintain Los Angeles-Long Beach as the preferred gateway for trade, he said.
-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.