PORT OF OAKLAND PROTESTClick on the 20 second video here. It sums up how intermodal truck drivers and companies are feeling right now. All while terminal operators espouse their turn-times average being less than two hours… evidently some terminal managers believe two hours is acceptable? But, their time-keeping is flawed. An average is just that, an average, and one that can be manipulated to show the desired outcome. Throw in all the bobtails, the bare chassis, the other easy moves and, voila, you have turn time calculations of two hours, or less. The real turn times are vastly different. Trust us, we know.

The terminal operators’ notion of turn times does not include the queue OUTSIDE the terminal. Terminal turn-time clocks start at the in-gate, not at the back of the line. Imagine the drivers’ mental anguish of having to endure this scene day after day, not to mention attempting to do it more than once in a day?

Many drivers have abandoned intermodal for other linehaul opportunities. A nationwide driver shortage in all sectors of trucking is jacking up driver wages. These other industry segments have become an alluring alternative to intermodal drivers who slog through endless scenes like this.

For the time being, we can throw money at the drivers and placate them for a short time, but that does not solve the problem.

The Blame Game

SONY DSCThe Journal of Commerce recently published a commentary by Bruce Wargo, President  and CEO of PierPass, entitled “It’s Time to Face the Real Problems with Port Trucking.” The gist of Mr. Wargo’s commentary is that an over capacity of trucks, not inefficient terminal operations, is the primary reason for slow terminal turn times. Hmmm…you are welcome to read the full article (click here) and decide for yourself.

Turn Times & Closing Times

Port of Oakland Tour 08-21-08 012We continue to experience slow turns times at Oakland’s marine terminals, especially Ports America and SSA.  While operations at SSA have improved, there is still work to be done…now is not the time to rest on our laurels.  Ports America, on the other hand, has not emerged from the delays and congestion caused by the move of operations of Maersk and MSC from SSA to Ports America.  The additional volumes are not being absorbed seamlessly.

Terminal gate hours remain a scourge.  It is difficult for motor carriers to be productive when we can’t get an import pick after 2:30-2:45. The abbreviated gate hours preclude trucks running between the Central Valley and Oakland from cycling two round-trip loops per day, thus essentially halving their productivity and driver revenue.  Congestion surcharges do not adequately address the shortfall.   It is imperative that terminal operations revert to a full workday schedule or truck rates are going to soar.