MEASURING TRUCK TURN TIMES

SONY DSCThe Port of Oakland has convened a Port Efficiency Task Force to tackle the port’s systemic issues.  Devine is honored to have a seat at the table.  Thus far, the task force has reviewed and made recommendations regarding the grey chassis pool, Saturday gates and a Central Valley container pool.
Another exciting project coming out of the task force is the development of technology to measure truck turn times.  It captures bluetooth signals and is the same technology used to estimate commute times.  We have all seen the freeway signs “24 Minutes to Downtown.”
The port is installing bluetooth readers on the streets and at the marine terminal gates. The readers will pick up bluetooth IDs anonymously. Alternatively, drivers or motor carriers can register, which will enable the tracking of specific trucks.
The data is continually processed through sophisticated algorithms to determine trucks in queue versus moving traffic.  It will even determine the specific queue in which the truck is waiting, as frequently the lines overlap.
The end result will be an aggregate, real-time, truck turn time.  These aggregate times will be available for all to see and will include the total truck turn time broken down into two segments, the outside-the-gate queue time and the ingate to outgate terminal transaction time. For registered users, this same information will be available on a truck specific basis.
It is currently a work in progress and is expected to go live in the first quarter of next year.
Kudos to the Port of Oakland for thinking outside the box and being the first port in the country to implement this important technology.

I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

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.

PRODUCTIVITY…LET’S TALK APPLES TO APPLES

Port of Oakland expansionWhen we talk about terminal productivity, we are talking about yard and gate operations, meaning how quickly we can get a driver in and out of the terminal. When terminal operators and ocean carriers talk about terminal productivity, they are talking about vessel operations, that is how quickly they can work a vessel, get containers discharged/loaded and get the ship back out to sea.

In Oakland, and around the country, we have been plagued by poor terminal productivity…our type of productivity…the one that ties our hands and disables us from getting drivers turned and containers picked up and delivered. We have discussed this issue in our monthly newsletters for the past year. The delays. The congestion. The frustration. The driver exodus. It has gotten so bad the FMC is even looking into the problem.

But, what can we do to fix it? The answer isn’t something the industry wants to hear. Pay more.

Terminal operators need more robust incomes in order to provide the service and operating hours necessary to move containers in a fluid and efficient manner. Additionally, we are going to have to pay our drivers more to compensate them for the lack of turns they are able to achieve.

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.