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.
05 Feb 2016
Efforts to improve chassis quality and availability in the Port of New York and New Jersey are inching forward despite the long delay in the launch of a common chassis pool, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official said.
28 Jan 2016
A Port of Oakland efficiency task force pledged this week to work toward consistent truck wait times at container terminals of no more than 45 minutes for a single transaction and 90 minutes for a dual transaction, compared to wait times of two hours or longer that some truckers say they regularly experience.
22 Dec 2015
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are taking a fresh look at short haul-rail of containers to an inland cluster of distribution centers as a way to combat systemic congestion at the largest North American container gateway.
17 Dec 2015
Cargomatic plans to launch the commercial version of its "free-flow" system for moving containers through congested ports by the end of the year, co-founder and president Brett Parker said.
10 Dec 2015
PierPass Inc. has been a lightening rod for criticism from cargo interests and truckers in Los Angeles-Long Beach for an alleged lack of transparency in the funding of night and weekend gates, but an initial Federal Maritime Commission review uncovered no glaring problems with the entity that manages the extended-gates program.

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.