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.
Ships at port
02 Oct 2014
Low ocean carrier rates are to blame for much of the congestion afflicting U.S. container ports, several ocean carriers and terminal operators said at a Federal MaritimeCommission hearing this week.
11 Sep 2014
Hub Group said it expects its costs to rise at least temporarily with the company’s conversion of its 350 California drayage drivers to company employees in order to settle litigation alleging they were misclassified as independent contractors.
09 Sep 2014
With turn times of 30 to 45 minutes, the Port of Charleston is a model for the efficient handling of drayage trucks, but that doesn’t mean the South Carolina port is paradise for harbor truckers.
08 Sep 2014
The so-called truck driver shortage largely has benefited intermodal rail — until now. Trucking’s increasing difficulty finding drivers to pilot big rigs has helped shift freight to intermodal containers, but it could also threaten future intermodal growth.
19 Aug 2014
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission is moving forward in a fledgling effort to reduce long truck wait times at some ports in the U.S. by holding a forum in Southern California next month and another in Baltimore in the fall.