“I quit! I can’t deal with it anymore!”

“I quit!  I can’t deal with it anymore!” are the words we heard this past Friday from a driver who could not face one more day at the marine terminals in Oakland.  The lines, the disrespect, the lack of productivity and income all contributed to his decision.  It’s becoming something motor carriers are hearing far too frequently.

We, the industry collectively, cannot continue to sit idly by and bang our heads against the same wall.  We cannot continue to allow the drivers to shoulder the burden of an inelastic and inefficient system.  The continual downward rate spiral in the TransPacific trade has put pressure on the ocean carriers to cut costs.  Ocean carriers look to their terminal operators to reduce pricing.  Terminal operators now no longer have the flexibility to operate on holidays/extended hours, purchase equipment, invest in technology, or order additional labor.  The network is stretched, and there is no elasticity left to ebb and flow with the business.  When it breaks, waves are sent through the supply chain…vessels back up, containers stack up and drivers line up.  And, right now, it’s broken.  It’s going to take everyone’s involvement to fix the problem.

Improvement in terminal turn times is necessary to stop the exodus of  drivers from intermodal trucking.  We are hearing reports of congestion surcharges being implemented. While it’s not a solution, it gives drivers some compensation for their time and lack of income.  Over the summer, we implemented such a surcharge and rescinded it when we saw a glimmer of improvement.  Operations have returned to static levels, and we are again considering such an action.

Disruptions, Delays & Drivers

Since the 4th of July holiday, we have experienced a series of labor disruptions and slowdowns in Oakland.  The latest issue was a protest by the Port of Oakland Trucker Association.  The protest lasted two days, October 21st and 22nd, and effectively shut down terminal operations one day and limited operations on the other.  Drivers want additional pay to offset the expense of purchasing a California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliant truck.  Effective January 1, 2014, every truck serving the state’s marine and rail facilities has to be model-year engine 2007 or newer. They are also seeking an extension to the CARB deadline in order to pursue grant and other funding.  The final complaint is terminal inefficiencies.  Drivers are not able to process as many transactions in a day as they need to in order to make a living.  With long queues, extended wait times, container unavailability and chassis chasing, drivers are making half the turns needed.

It’s not as easy as throwing twice the number of drivers at the problem to move the same amount of freight…which is not an option anyway because of the nationwide driver shortage.  Even if we could increase the fleet serving Oakland by 100%, it would only create more congestion, more delays and more disgruntled drivers.

Snow, Snow, Snow

It is that time of year already…snow over Donner Summit.  We had our first dusting of snow last week, and drivers are already chaining up.  For those who don’t live in California, Donner Summit is the mountain pass traversed on the way to  Reno.  To give you a frame of reference as to the amount snow that can fall over the pass in the winter months, it is named after the infamous Donner Party.

Regarding the expectations for this winter, it is neither El Nino or La Nina, so the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting unpredictable snowfall this year. (Yes, that’s right, they actually predicted unpredictable snowfall.)  Basically, it’s anybody’s guess as to what this year will bring.  Nevertheless, we will predictably keep you informed.

East Coast Labor Issues

We’re not sure if we take solace in the fact that Oakland is not alone in its troubles or not.  The Port of Baltimore suffered through a three-day longshore labor strike last month.  As you may recall, this past spring, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) ratified their coast-wide master contract covering all the ports on the east and gulf coasts.  After the master contract was signed, local contracts involving the work and rules of specific ports were still being negotiated.  One such negotiation was between the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore and ILA Local 333.  ILA members rejected the latest contract offer and went on strike.  An arbitrator was called in, and it was ruled the strike violated the no strike clause in the master contract.  Workers had to return to the docks on October 18th for at least a 90-day negotiation period.

 

Barge Dedication

This past Friday the Port of Stockton hosted the dedication ceremony for the M580 Project, also known as the container on barge service between the ports of Stockton and Oakland.  Approximately 200 officials and guests attended the ceremony and learned the barge is operating at 50% of capacity.

 

And, the Harey Tortuga Goes to…

Amanda Nichols and Melissa Bruns are teammates on and off the field at Devine. They are part of the same running club and received the coveted Harey Tortuga award from their team.  It’s a very clever bronze statue of a hare in a tortoise shell. It’s a perpetual award, so the duo get to share it for one year.  Congratulations ladies!

 

Showing Appreciation

In conjunction with the California Highway Patrol and the California Trucking Association, Devine participated in the “Driver Appreciation Day” festivities at the Chowchilla truck scales last month.  It was a great day and allowed us to give a high-five to the many hardworking drivers out on the roadways each day.

Remember…if you bought it, a truck brought it!

Behind the Dock Doors

Reno, NV has always been a hub for distribution, but it has expanded significantly in the last few years.  Why?  There are myriad answers.  Its proximity to major east/west and north/south freeways providing easy access to consumers in the eleven western states.  Its low or zero tax rate structure.  Its diverse labor force.  Its affordable cost of living and favorable lifestyle.

If you’re thinking of relocating or expanding to Northern Nevada and taking advantage of all the area has to offer, we would welcome the opportunity to be your 3PL service provider. 

From the Driver’s Seat

Beware of this Growing Trend

A buyer in California purchases a load of widgets from a supplier in Indiana.  The buyer arranges the freight and puts the load out for bid on a load board.  A seemingly legitimate motor carrier is awarded the bid.  A truck shows up to pick up the widgets as scheduled, surrenders the proper paperwork, gets the cargo and is never seen again.

This process is favored by today’s thieves and is a growing trend especially in the food and beverage industries.  Be careful out there.