“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 Over the summer, we implemented such a surcharge and rescinded it when we saw a glimmer of improvement.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.