L.A. terminal adds exit inspection

L.A. terminal adds exit inspection

Truck drivers picking up loads at APM Terminals, Pier 400 at the Port of Los Angeles must now stop for a mechanical inspection of their chassis as they leave the facility.

Digital signboards at the entrance to the facility inform drivers that "Mandatory Roadability" is now in force at the terminal. The last-minute inspection was added in January to allay concerns from drivers that they were receiving equipment that was unsafe or didn't meet federal standards, according to Tom Boyd, spokesman for Maersk Sealand. Maersk Sealand and APM Terminals are part of the A.P. Moller Group.

A California law that went into effect in recent years requires equipment owners to turn over intermodal chassis and other equipment in safe, working order. Federal rules say that once on the road, truckers are legally responsible for whatever they are driving.

Some drivers are complaining about waiting in a new line, but Boyd said in an interview last week that "Bottom line, it's about safety. Truckers have said for years that ocean carriers provide sub-par chassis. This is a way to insure that every chassis is inspected for safety before it leaves the terminal."

At the inspection gates, certified mechanics who are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and paid by APM Terminals inspect brakes, brake lights, mud flaps and tires, along with anything else the trucker is concerned about. The inspections take seven to nine minutes each now, down from about 15 minutes when it started in mid-January.

Drivers have the opportunity at the same time to ask for repairs on containers, Boyd said.

"We wanted to make the procedure standard at our terminals on all the coasts," he said. "We do this at ports on the East Coast and in other places on the West Coast."

But trucking officials question the need to make the turn time at port terminals longer for drivers. "Drivers are paid by the load, not the hour. They aren't getting paid to watch Maersk inspect the equipment they own," one California trucker said.

"Other terminals do this before the driver ever reaches the gate. They do it before they turn it over," said Bill Wanamaker, with the American Trucking Associations in Washington. "It takes a lot of gall to require somebody else to baby sit your equipment and move it around for you when it is your responsibility to do it in the first place."

The DOT recently announced it would implement a program to inspect intermodal chassis.

-- Stephanie Nall, Pacific Shipper