Drayage Crisis 2014

Drayage Crisis 2014

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.

Special Coverage

Thumbnail of Drayage Flashpoints graphic
With the spring retail season at hand, the U.S. economy showing signs of accelerating and the import peak season six months away, there’s growing concern that shippers and their supply chains will feel the impact unless systemic problems with how containers flow from ships through ports to inland destinations are addressed.

News & Analysis

16 Dec 2014
U.S. intermodal trains on average are moving faster, but they still have a ways to go before delivering the level of service shippers had come to expect before last winter.
26 Nov 2014
BNSF Railway is no longer accepting empty containers headed to Seattle and Tacoma marine terminals at railyards in Chicago; St. Paul, Minnesota, Denver and Omaha.
24 Nov 2014
U.S. shippers dependent on congested ports face a tough year ahead, FTR Associates says. But that doesn't mean 2015 will be easy — or cheap — for anyone shipping freight in the U.S.
24 Nov 2014
West Coast port congestion keeps spot market truck prices on inland routes high, and shippers are rethinking supply chains as cost rise.
17 Oct 2014
Congestion-caused delays at the largest U.S. port complex are pushing up outbound spot market truck rates from the Los Angeles-Long Beach market to inland distribution points.
09 Oct 2014
Dockworkers in Los Angeles-Long Beach are making the already terrible congestion problems at marine terminals insufferable by pulling trucks over and requiring inspections that reportedly go far beyond the normal safety procedures.

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.