Brokers Seek Exporter Imbalance Solution

Brokers Seek Exporter Imbalance Solution

Freight brokers are studying whether they can help correct a steep imbalance in transportation equipment availability that is hurting efforts of U.S. exporters to get goods to overseas markets.

The Transportation Intermediaries Association asked executives at the group’s annual meeting last week in Tucson, Ariz., to look at whether its broker members can coordinate their transport management and information on shipments to help get ocean containers in better position for shippers at U.S. inland points to use them.

American exporters, particularly agriculture shippers, are showing growing frustration this year with the lack of the containers they need to get goods to gateways. Containership operators say they want to serve the U.S. export market. But rates for the shipments and pricing for imports remain too low, they say, and won’t support the cost of getting containers to export markets that are often far from inbound destination points.

“We don’t know if we have a solution, but it’s something we need to look at,” said Richard Gluck, general counsel for TIA.

“Our members manage many thousands of transportation movements so we want to see if there is some opportunity to make information available on where shipments are going and where equipment might be available,” he said. “We want to know if there is a way for brokers to create two-way moves between, say, Los Angeles and Kansas City, in a way that helps exporters.”

The exporter frustrations have drawn the interest of the Federal Maritime Administration, and an FMC staff attorney attended sessions at the TIA annual conference that signaled a growing attention to intermodalism at a group mostly associated with highway shipments.

Officials at almost all of North America’s Class 1 railroads spoke at sessions aimed at bringing more brokers into the rails’ intermodal networks.

“I’m here to tell you, we want your business,” said George Duggan, vice president of domestic intermodal at BNSF Railway.