Drayage Crisis 2014
Drayage Crisis 2014
The fallout from the winter’s freeze and chain of storms underscores the systemic problems in North America’s port drayage infrastructure.
Congestion and delays at some of the largest North American ports — New York-New Jersey and Virginia 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 late February and March in the form of a walkout by union and non-union truckers.
As Bruce Wargo, president of the PierPass extended-gates program at Los Angeles-Long Beach, told the JOC’s TPM Conference just as the Vancouver strike was beginning, “Trucker dissatisfaction with marine terminals is not a local phenomenon. It’s a symptom of the real problem, which is the traditional delivery process most terminals have in place today.”
That process 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.
Perhaps most disturbing for beneficial cargo owners is that the powder keg is exploding at the slowest time of the year for North American imports. With the economy showing signs of accelerating, forecasts calling for strengthening volumes in the months ahead, and potential slowdowns looming this spring and summer during West Coast longshore labor talks, productivity could go from boiling over to imploding later this year.
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. “At the rate things are going,” said Tom Heimgartner, president of Newark, N.J.-based drayage operator Best Transportation, “some of us may not be around” for any solutions to matter.