Drayage Crisis

The fallout from last winter’s freeze and chain of storms underscores the systemic problems in North America’s port drayage infrastructure — problems that are still with us in the second half of 2014.

Congestion and delays at some of the largest North American ports — in particular New York-New Jersey  on the East Coast and Los Angeles-Long Beach in the West — were percolating even before frustration among drayage drivers boiled over at Port Metro Vancouver in February and March in the form of a walkout by union and non-union truckers. 

“Trucker dissatisfaction with marine terminals is not a local phenomenon," Bruce Wargo, president of PierPass, said at the JOC's TPM Conference in March. "It’s a symptom of the real problem, which is the traditional delivery process most terminals have in place today.”

Those processes haven't noticeably improved. In October, the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex is reeling from terminal congestion caused by strong cargo volumes, severe chassis dislocations and tardy intermodal rail service.

The drayage business is only complicated by ever-larger ships straining terminals already constricted by the lack of 24/7 operations, a shortage of chassis equipment and truck drivers, and a cost-is-king philosophy among all supply chain interests that equates to no one ponying up the money that could help eliminate the chokepoints.

Some ports are trying to get ahead of the problem, even if they’re already behind. New York-New Jersey and Virginia have formed task forces represented by various supply chain interests aimed at finding ways to improve port performance, including drayage issues.

The question is whether any proposals that emerge will be in time to prevent a complete breakdown — and whether all supply chain partners will work together to implement them.

News & Analysis

10 Nov 2016
Agricultural exporters will have access to extended gate hours in Seattle-Tacoma until Dec. 2 thanks to financial support from the Northwest Seaport Alliance to help fund flex, night and weekend gates.
06 Jun 2016
Drayage companies that service the Port of New York and New Jersey are once again squaring off with the Teamsters union.
04 May 2016
Container volumes have returned to pre-recession levels and carriers are deploying super-post-Panamax ships in the U.S. trades.
08 Apr 2016
International Longshoremen’s Association leader Dennis Daggett said the ILA isn’t to blame for delays in launching a universal port chassis pool at the Port of New York and New Jersey, and that intermodal equipment providers don’t seem committed to the idea.
07 Apr 2016
A proposed universal chassis pool at the Port of New York and New Jersey is dead in the water, but chassis lessors haven’t given up on the idea, an executive at one of the leasing companies told truckers Thursday.
16 Feb 2016
Marine terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach that have collaborated with cargo interests and truckers on creative programs such as dray-offs and free-flow of containers recorded the best gate turn times in January, according to data published by the Harbor Trucking Association. But even those gains weren’t able to speed overall truck turn times much at the top U.S. container port complex.

Commentary

Nightmare scenarios are occurring all day, every day at the two biggest U.S. container ports, and the customers receiving some of the worst service are among the nation's largest shippers.