Winter weather has combined with congestion at terminals and backlogs for repairs to produce chassis shortages at the Port of New York and New Jersey and at Midwest rail terminals.
New York-New Jersey drayage drivers have complained for weeks about tight supplies of chassis at some terminals.
Truckers are reluctant to send drivers to congested terminals where they may spend several hours merely returning a chassis. Terminals also have a large backlog of chassis that have been “deadlined” for repairs by International Longshoremen’s Association mechanics.
“The fellows aren’t returning chassis. They’re holding onto them,” said Dick Jones, executive director of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. “They’d rather pay the per-diem than send a driver back with an empty chassis and gamble on being able to find a good one.”
Another contributor to chassis shortages is extended free time for container usage that shippers often negotiate with ocean carriers. Many roadworthy chassis are sitting under containers waiting to be unloaded at distribution centers.
“It’s really affecting the flow of commerce,” said Eric Zeitouni, president of Blue Arrow Warehouse in Monroe, N.J. “It’s causing a frenzy in the entire market.”
Slow deliveries keep chassis out of system
Chassis shortages haven’t been limited to marine terminals. A series of winter storms have slowed deliveries at warehouses across the Midwest and slowed the return of intermodal equipment.
“It’s all due to the weather and the good chassis not being returned at the velocity the terminals need,” said Jason Hilsenbeck, owner of Load-Match and Drayage.com. “All the good chassis get sucked right out of the terminals, and you’re left with the ones that need repair.”
“I have emails from truckers in Chicago saying their parking lots are overflowing with containers that still need to be delivered. Those chassis probably are good, but they’re not available to take other containers,” he said.
“You can go from Minneapolis to Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland, over to Boston, down to New York and Norfolk, and come back through Cincinnati — that’s your path of congestion and severe chassis shortages,” Hilsenbeck said.
The Los Angeles-Long Beach complex in Southern California is also suffering from chassis “dislocations,” which are leading to long turn times for truckers at terminals. Problems there are linked to carriers’ sale of chassis as they quit providing chassis.