Marine terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this year hope to develop some simple solutions to reduce delays at their gates caused by truckers that encounter problems with their pick-up and delivery transactions due to miscommunication, industry officials said Wednesday.
PierPass Inc., the special purpose entity created eight years ago by the 13 area terminals to collect day-time truck fees that fund night gates, has begun monitoring the frequency of, and reasons behind, so-called trouble tickets with the aim of improving the flow of cargo. It said that about 5 percent of trucks entering or leaving the port complex experience some sort of exception from normal procedures, which equates to about 1,500 out of 30,000 truck moves per day.
A survey of terminal operators indicated that most of the holdups are connected to truckers arriving with inaccurate or incomplete information about the availability of an import container. On the export side, the main problem is drivers with inaccurate or unavailable booking numbers. The delays add about an hour to a driver's cycle time through the terminal.
The findings mirror those in a 2011 report by the National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP), which stated that most anomalies can be prevented by better communication before a truck arrives at the gate.
"A lot of times, we find that shippers contact a trucking company and say, 'I made a booking, go on down to the terminal. And, of course, if the terminal doesn't have that information the trucker is going to experience delays," PierPass Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wargo said in a conference call with reporters. "It's pretty surprising to me how many trucks show up with a booking number that is not valid," he added.
When issued a trouble ticket, the driver typically has to go to a “trouble window” or office to get the issue resolved. This results in delays for customers and truckers and higher costs for terminal operators. Other truck drivers may also be impacted waiting to get around a truck that is stuck resolving a problem at the gate.
Terminal operators urged truckers and dispatchers to take advantage of their Web-based information systems, or community systems like eModal, to confirm the availability of import containers or the validity of export booking numbers before heading to the port to pick up or deliver a container. Drayage companies that make an effort to prevent mix-ups have better turn times, according to trucking and maritime industry officials.
"We will make sure that Customs has been cleared, we will make sure that bill of lading charges have cleared, we will make sure the container is off the ship, we will make sure there are no holds, for whatever reason, on that container," Vic LaRosa, president and CEO of TTSI, said in a YouTube video produced by PierPass.
Containers can be put on hold by Customs or other agencies with jurisdiction over imports, as well as by ocean carriers and terminals for unpaid transport charges or daytime PierPass fees. It costs shippers $60 per TEU to move cargo on or off the docks during daytime hours.
Wargo said PierPass hopes to come up with some new procedures and technology to improve the interface between shippers, truckers and terminal operators, and reduce costly delays.
In the meantime, PierPass is undertaking an education campaign to make drivers and carrier dispatchers aware of the tools available to prevent mix-ups. The organization said it is distributing a fact sheet to trucking companies with tips on preventing trouble tickets and posted the video
on its Website in which representatives from various parts of the supply chain discuss approaches to reducing gate glitches.
The NCFRP report noted that less experienced drivers and trucking companies that don’t regularly serve the ports generate exceptions and receive trouble tickets much more frequently than regular port visitors. Drivers making an average of at least one call per day had only a 3 pecent trouble ticket rate, versus 7.8 percent for those making less than one call per week, the report found.
Asked how the terminals coped with disbursing the backlog of containers from the eight-day strike by longshoremen last month, Wargo said all but two terminals opened for business on Saturday and the ports were able to clear out the cargo buildup in a little over a week. - Eric Kulisch