The Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California in early December will launch on its Web site a monthly tracking system that will provide data on turn times at all of the container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Eventually, the goal is to include truck mobility data on area roadways and freeways as well.
Alex Cherin, president of the HTA, said the system will use data collected via global positioning satellite transmitters on more than 1,500 drayage trucks to measure the time trucks spend in queues outside the terminal gates, time spent inside the container yards and origin-destination data as well.
The site will be updated during the first week of each month and will present data on the thousands of gate transactions that took place in Los Angeles-Long Beach during the previous month.
Cherin said HTA will launch the truck mobility feature on Dec. 10 in conjunction with The Journal of Commerce’s Port Productivity seminar in Newark, N.J. Cherin will discuss the project as a panelist on terminal gate productivity at the seminar.
Measuring truck turn times at marine terminals is a constant source of friction between harbor truckers and terminal operators at container ports across the nation. Truckers in New York-New Jersey last summer were up in arms over delays at the Maher terminal following the installation of a new software system.
A major cause of the friction is that marine terminals and truckers usually measure turn times differently. The HTA, for example, measures truck trip times from when the driver arrives in the queue outside the gate and the time spent in the yard until it exits from the terminal.
PierPass Inc., which was formed by marine terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach to manage the ports’ program of up to five night and weekend gates each week, says that the terminals have no control over when truckers decide to show up at the terminals. Many truckers arrive early to be near the front of the line. Therefore, PierPass measures only the time trucks spend within the terminals.
Greg Alexander, senior project manager at E2 ManageTech, the company hired by the HTA to collect and collate the raw data, said such disagreements should be mitigated because the GPS data can be used to isolate truck times outside the gate, during the container pickup or drop-off transaction, time spent at a trouble window, and so forth.
Also, the data will include time of day and exact latitude and longitude information for each transaction so truckers and terminals can zero in on where delays occur and what times of the day they occur. This will allow the parties to detect trends. For example, if a particular terminal consistently experiences delays during coffee breaks, in the chassis area or at the trouble window, steps can be taken to correct those situations.
The HTA, which raised $120,000 for the project, believes that use of this information will lead to operational changes by terminals and truckers to improve fluidity in the harbor. Vic La Rosa, president of the drayage firm TTSI, said that although PierPass publishes aggregate figures showing that 50 percent of transactions take place in less than one hour, which is considered acceptable, that means the remaining 50 percent take more than one hour.
La Rosa said the economics of today’s trucking environment, in which modern, environmentally compliant vehicles can cost $150,000, dictate that the trucker loses money on any transaction that goes beyond one hour.
Truckers and terminal operators want especially to address the egregious waits of two hours or longer and eradicate those turn times that are totally unacceptable.
The HTA intends to expand the effort to include complete origin-destination times. “The reality is, trucks get stuck in traffic,” Alexander said. Collecting data from thousands of truck moves each day should help the industry pinpoint the routes, times of day and destinations that experience the worst delays.
Bruce Wargo, president of PierPass Inc., said the HTA’s truck mobility data can be combined with information provided by terminals, and real-time views of gate queues captured by cameras and streamed on the PierPass Web site, to help truck dispatchers direct drivers to those gates where lines are the shortest.
A sizable majority of the trucks calling in the harbor spend 45 minutes or less per single transaction, or 90 minutes for a dual transaction (drop-off of one container and pickup of another container), Wargo said.
However, there are times each day when trucks always bunch at the gates, such as at the beginning of a shift or after the lunch break. Armed with that historical information, and overlaying the additional data provided by the HTA on situations unique to the individual terminals, could help terminals and truckers improve mobility in the harbor, he said.