More gate hours at U.S. ports is only one part of the solution to supply-chain bottlenecks, said trucking groups and industry observers in response to President Biden’s announcement that the Port of Los Angeles is to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
However, as reported by Truckinginfo.com, trucking leaders say that chassis shortages, warehouse hours, inefficient use of containers, labor and truck driver shortages still need to be addressed before extending shipping port operations will make much of a difference.
“While we commend the Biden Administration’s focus on our ongoing supply chain crisis, extended gate hours cannot resolve major systemic issues truckers at ports have long faced,” said Shawn Yadon, California Trucking Association CEO, in a statement. “Truckers and cargo owners are taking on costs, including fees for not returning equipment to ports that cannot accept them, burdensome rules that create inefficiency, and lack of equipment due to chassis sitting idle under empty containers.”
Yadon’s comments were echoed by the Harbor Trucking Association, which represents drayage companies at the West Coast ports. In a statement, HTA said the Biden administration action “does not address the core issues that have been plaguing the supply chain here at America’s port for years.”
The HTA says thousands of empty containers sit in motor carrier yards on top of chassis that are unable to be returned into the port complex because of overly restrictive appointment requirements.
The dwell time, or average number of days containers are sitting at the port before they get moved out keeps rising, said Eric Starks, CEO of transportation forecasting firm FTR.
FTR’s Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal, said there are problems at inland intermodal terminals, as well. He compared it to a game of Whack-a-Mole; as soon as you get the congestion cleared up in one place, it just pops up in another. “We’re going to be playing this game until at least the second half of 2022.”
The availability of intermodal chassis is a big part of the problem, both at the ports and at inland rail terminals. And it’s not necessarily a matter of there not being enough chassis in existence; it’s that they are often sitting empty.
“We’ve seen at some terminals that the [intermodal container] box is available but no chassis.” Or the box is available, but the port or railroad can’t get to the box because it’s stuck in the middle of a stack and there’s not enough manpower to dig it out.
“You need warehouses to be open, you need drayage truckers being willing to pick up at those off hours. It’s going to take everyone working together to pull additional capacity out of the ports.”
Bloomberg reported that White House officials and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “met with transportation and industry officials at a virtual roundtable to talk about more ways to alleviate congestion, including a temporary expansion of warehousing and rail service, better data sharing at ports, and improving both the recruitment of truckers and quality of trucking jobs.”
Full story here.