Drayage industry leaders say the Port of New York and New Jersey faces the loss of cargo to rival gateways unless it can end delays that have produced seven consecutive weeks of long truck lines outside container terminals.
Customers “are getting fed up,” said Jeff Bader, president of Golden Carriers and of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. He said it’s likely the delays have already produced cargo diversions, and that port truckers are absorbing heavy losses.
Terminal operations across the port have been fouled up since early June, when Maher Terminals encountered problems with a new terminal operating system.
Diversion of ships from Maher strained other terminals’ capacity just as summer vacations depleted the supply of longshore labor and sapped terminals’ productivity. Meanwhile, the cargo shifts within the port have left truckers scrambling to find chassis when and where they’re needed.
Tom Adamski, chairman of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association’s Bi-State Harbor Carriers conference, said the port’s operating problems are causing “a major diversion of discretionary cargo” to other ports.
“The Port of New York and New Jersey is broken, and as we have been told for the past two months, they are working on it and can't seem to rectify the problems. This is absurd,” Adamski said.
Gerard J. Coyle, vice president of the Evans Network, said trucking companies are beginning to receive customer requests to provide differentiated pricing for terminals, with higher rates for the most congested facilities. “We’re just starting to see that,” he said.
Bader said some Bi-State association members have said they’re considering surcharges adjusted to congestion levels at different terminals. “That’s something we’d hoped to avoid,” he said.
Bader said association officials have been meeting with terminals to discuss ways to mitigate drayage companies’ extra costs. Truckers say the delays are hitting them with losses on detention, demurrage and reduced productivity they’ve been unable to pass along.
Since the delays started, many drivers have had to wait as long as 12 hours to pick up or deliver loads at terminals. Trucking companies say they’ve been paying drivers for the unproductive time, but that some owner-operators are balking at assignments to pick up or deliver loads at piers.
Terminals are required under their tariffs to pay detention charges for excess waiting times while trucks are inside terminal gates, but not for the time that trucks spend in line outside the gates.
Many drivers begin lining up outside terminal gates as early as 4 a.m., two hours before the gates open, in an effort to get a head start on their pickups and deliveries.
Truckers report the delays have made it difficult to remove import loads from terminals before free-time storage expires and demurrage charges begin.
Drayage operators say they often are able to arrange an additional day of free time when their drivers are unable to haul containers from the piers on time, but that these situations are being handled case-by-case.