APM Terminals in Los Angeles on April 7 will roll out a trucker appointment system that the manager of Southern California’s largest container terminal believes will speed up turn times in the harbor.
“This thing works,” said Alan McCorkle, senior vice president of the 440-acre terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. “We can get you in and out in 60 minutes for a dual move,” he told a meeting of the Harbor Trucking Association March 19 in Long Beach.
APM tested its Import Delivery Transformation program for several weeks last fall. Some flaws in the front-end process raised concerns in the harbor trucking community, so APM suspended the program and has worked since then to fine-tune it.
Now APM is ready to introduce IDT 2.0. It is based on mandatory trucker appointments for imports. Some truckers do not like appointment systems. They say rigid enforcement of pick-up windows doesn’t work in an environment of long queues, terminal congestion and traffic uncertainties throughout the metropolitan area.
APM promises that its IDT appointment system is different than others in the harbor. “It is an appointment delivery system versus an appointment reservation system,” said Dana Haymaker, director of yard and gate operations at the APM terminal.
Other appointment systems reserve a time for the trucker to show up at the gate, but upon entering the facility, the trucker must “chase the RTG down the row,” Haymaker said. In the IDT system, the rubber-tired gantry crane will deliver the container to the trucker, he said.
Long truck queues and terminal congestion are an ongoing concern at a number of North American gateways, including Los Angeles-Long Beach, New York-New Jersey, Norfolk and Vancouver, B.C. If terminals, shipping lines, beneficial cargo owners and harbor truckers do not change the way containerized imports are handled in this new era of mega-container ships, the situation will only get worse, McCorkle said.
“As bad as it is now, this could be the good old days if changes aren’t made now. As ships get bigger and more cargo is compressed into the same footprint, it will only get worse if changes are not made,” he said.
The way containerized imports are handled at a marine terminal hasn’t changed much over the past 25 years. Drivers show up at the terminal, and if their documentation is in order, they proceed deep into the yard in search of the imported container. This process can easily consume more than an hour for drivers who are paid by the load.
If the BCO, trucking company and terminal operator work together to consistently provide accurate and complete documentation on the front end, drivers entering the APM terminal under the IDT system will go a short distance, and the RTG will deliver the container to the truck. Each RTG will serve two to three blocks of containers per hour, with an average of 12 to 15 appointments per hour, Haymaker said.
Queue times outside the gate are a problem for truckers at many ports. Haymaker said the APM terminal is keeping its queue times to less than 30 minutes. APM is confident the transaction within the yard can be kept to an hour or less.
If IDT works as envisioned, APM will become a terminal that harbor truckers want to call at, and that is good for BCOs as well as truckers because truckers are the BCOs’ point of contact with the terminal. “We need you guys,” McCorkle said.