Representatives of waterfront employers, drayage companies and the International Longshoremen’s Association said there’s an urgent need to improve the way intermodal chassis are supplied in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Dennis Daggett, president of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast District and of Local 1804-1, said the ILA, its employers and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are seeking ways to ensure truckers have quick access to roadworthy chassis.
“We’re researching chassis pools around the country to see what is the best model … to see what we can mimic,” Daggett said during a panel discussion at the annual New York-New Jersey Port Industry Day.
Daggett said the model that’s getting the most attention is the Hampton Roads co-op pool, now in its third version, but that the ILA is open to any good ideas as long as they don’t undercut the union’s work jurisdiction.
“We support anything that is more efficient. We just want to do the work. We’ve been doing that from Day One,” Daggett said.
He noted that ILA members have repaired and maintained chassis and containers since the birth of modern containerization, and that the union secured language in its new coastwide contract to protect ILA jurisdiction over the work.
He said the union sympathizes with the problems of truckers who face long waits for usable chassis. “Truckers are the natural ally of the ILA,” he said.
Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, said chassis supply is “a broken system” that forces truckers to use old, unsafe equipment. Many ocean carriers, traditionally the main suppliers of chassis, have quit providing free chassis and left motor carriers to fend for themselves.
“I don’t know of any of my members — not one — that have come to me and said, ‘We want to repair our chassis.’ ” Bader said. “We don’t want to repair the chassis. We want a safe, roadable chassis in 20 minutes — go to the pier, get a chassis and do our job.”
John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association, said chassis availability contributed to last summer’s severe delays at the port. Delays prevented truckers from returning chassis quickly, causing shortages that forced drivers to waste hours seeking scarce equipment.
“It’s a little frightening to me to think that we have a great new (ILA-NYSA) collective bargaining agreement, we’re raising the Bayonne Bridge, we have the channels dredged, and we’ve spent billions of dollars on infrastructure, but the port can still be brought to a screaming halt because chassis aren’t there,” he said.
“I think it is very important that stakeholders come to work together over the next several months to find a solution that works for New York. There are models out there that work, and it is something to be dealt with in the short term, because we can’t continue with the same model we have.”
Dave Adam, CEO of United States Maritime Alliance, said that although ocean carriers have been lessening their involvement in chassis supply, they still have an interest in seeing that safe equipment is provided.
“When a box rolls over on top of somebody because of a chassis, the first thing somebody’s going to look at is the name on the box. The chassis may not have a name on it, but the box will. And that’s something that was not well addressed in the transition” from carrier-supplied chassis, he said.