Frustrated by post-hurricane delays, New York-New Jersey port truckers say they may seek state legislation to prohibit marine terminals from charging detention and demurrage when congestion prevents prompt pickups and deliveries.
“We’re discussing it with our members, our attorneys, and politicians,” said Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers and of Golden Carriers Inc.
He said the association unsuccessfully sought legislation in New Jersey several years ago and may renew its effort now.
Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the port’s terminals are still digging out from cargo backlogs aggravated by storm damage that has caused shortages of chassis and trucks. Truckers have reported hours-long delays.
Terminals have been unwilling to waive charges for demurrage on containers stuck inside terminals or detention for boxes that truckers can’t return to terminals.
Most port terminals stayed open Saturday to chip away at the import-cargo backlog that has clogged terminals and combined with equipment shortages to produce slow turnaround times and long lines for truck drivers.
The port was closed for several days after Sandy swamped the port with four feet of water. Several carriers diverted cargo to Norfolk, Baltimore and Halifax, forcing shippers to pay the cost of repositioning boxes.
An estimated 25 percent of drayage trucks in the port sustained storm damage, Bader said. Meanwhile, thousands of chassis flooded by salt water have had to be taken out of service to drain, clean and replace lubricating fluids.
Bader praised the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for working with companies to quickly clear storm damage and reopen terminals.
“The port authority did an outstanding job of reopening the port and keeping customers informed,” he said. “Everyone pulled together.”
But since then, he said, it’s been a story of constant delays and expense. Cargo interests have been stuck with extra demurrage and detention charges that overwhelmed terminals have refused to waive.
Bader said ship lines have resisted extending free time for containers, and that terminals “won’t budge an inch” on demurrage. Truckers are forced to pass the costs to customers, who aren’t happy about it.
“It’s a black eye for the port,” he said.