Can automated vehicles improve port efficiency?

The ITS MARAD study found off-site staging areas with autonomous shuttles or virtual gates offer ports the best benefit-cost ratios.

Can automated vehicles improve port efficiency?

The ITS MARAD study found off-site staging areas with autonomous shuttles or virtual gates offer ports the best benefit-cost ratios.

Can automated vehicles improve port efficiency?

The ITS MARAD study found off-site staging areas with autonomous shuttles or virtual gates offer ports the best benefit-cost ratios.

 

   Off-site staging areas for drayage trucking can help reduce port congestion, and staging areas with a virtual gate or autonomous shuttles offer ports the best relative benefit-cost ratios, according to the ITS MARAD truck staging study.
    According to a survey sent to U.S. port authorities as part of the study, 65 percent of respondents said their ports are facing challenges with delays and queues at terminal gates. Increasing cargo surges, caused in part by larger ships, were one of the primary reasons for the congestion, they said.
    “Freight continues to pour into the country, so the challenge is how do we keep that conveyor belt on?” asked Ryan Macdonald, strategic operations and planning manager of the Georgia Ports Authority, on Wednesday during a Talking Freight webinar. “As we start to receive these larger slugs of freight and more of it, how do we process it efficiently?”
    The key to improving port efficiency is minimizing turn times and maximizing the number of turns for a drayage trucker, according to the collaborative study by the Maritime Administration (MARAD), Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Minimizing the number of lifts for any given container is an important part of accomplishing the goal.

   Interviews with stakeholders in six port regions — New York and New Jersey, Savannah, Houston, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Seattle and Tacoma and Columbus, Ohio — also found cargo surges as a cause for congestion, but the queues can sometimes be addressed through low-cost operational solutions, and that cargo visibility is critical to efficient operations.
    The study identified about a dozen solutions, but four were tested in five scenarios, which included a generic port based on a 2017 business case analysis; a major urban port with a local market; a major urban port with a local and hinterland market; a minor urban port with a hinterland market; and an inland port.
    A benefit-cost analysis was conducted at the five ports and tested off-site staging, off-site staging with a virtual gate, a level 4 automated truck in queue and a level 4 automated truck in queue with an off-site staging area.
    Level 4 automation, as defined in the Society of Automotive Engineers Levels of Driving Automation standard, “is about as close to full automation as you can get without having a robotic truck that does not need an operator,” said Tom Phelan of Gannett Fleming and BHX Engineering and Planning.
    An automated truck with off-site staging — in which drayage trucks would park off site and have the cargo shuttled to them by a dedicated fleet of autonomous vehicles — offers the best relative benefit, according to the study. Generic and inland ports both have very high ratios, while the remaining three scenarios all have high ratios.
   Although both major urban ports are rated low in regular off-site staging because of high land costs associated with purchasing the parking area, the automated truck solution is rated high because the staging area is smaller due to the trucks having shorter wait times because of the shuttle, Phelan said.
    “Also, something else to keep in mind even with the higher land costs to the major urban to local market and major urban to mixed market scenarios, the volume of cargo is so large that even incremental improvements in individual lifts can have a substantial aggregative benefit simply because of the volume,” he explained.
    An off-site staging area with a virtual gate offered a high benefit-cost ratio for the minor urban to hinterland port and was rated as high for the other four.
    “Why not begin the transaction at the staging area?” Phelan said.
    He later added, “Once you start putting a virtual gate in this staging and parking area, there’s some way to reduce the transaction time, improve the efficiency of the operation, potentially improve the throughput of the port itself without expanding the terminal area, this is where the benefits start to get a little bit higher.”
   Automated trucks in queue, which is similar to the current method but involves trucks entering an autonomous mode before entering the terminal, was just rated moderate across the board. Phelan said the high cost of implementing an entire fleet with automated technology made the solution cost prohibited.
    “The complexity of port operations may mean that there is some limited application for automated vehicle technology, but it is going to be extremely challenging for many tactical and operational day-to-day issues,” said Keith Chase of Gannett Fleming. “It would be unwise to think of this as a panacea for congestion at ports.”
    Off-site staging areas also provide qualitative benefits, such as improved safety and the reduction of trucks staged on the roadside, according to the study.
    But there are barriers to the implementation, such as legal and jurisdictional hurdles and the complexity of the marine cargo supply chain.
    “If there is a staging area with a virtual gate or a shuttle operation going out to it, from a labor perspective is that considered inside the terminal or does it require ILA labor to operate the facility or can it be done with a third-party operation?” Phelan asked. “Those are absolutely critical issues that will have to be addressed.”
   Determining who pays for the improvements is also an issue as an improvement in one point of the cargo-handling process may have benefits across the supply chain.
    “Somebody has to be incentivized to actually go out and spend a substantial amount of money to implement some of these solutions,” Phelan said.
    The study also identified next steps that can be taken, including continuing industry and public stakeholder collaboration in automated vehicle technology development, raising port owners and operators’ awareness of emerging technologies, and surveying the global landscape of technology implementation.
    “I won’t say we’re behind, but we have a lot of work to do to find ways to incorporate this very useful technology that’s coming at us,” Macdonald said.

I am of the opinion that shippers should pray that lines are allowed to continue to operate alliances.

South Carolina Ports Authority reported its busiest May in history as it handle 204,457 TEUs. Overall, its fiscal year-to-date totals are up 9.7% to 2.2 million TEUs.

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Can automated vehicles improve port efficiency?

The ITS MARAD study found off-site staging areas with autonomous shuttles or virtual gates offer ports the best benefit-cost ratios.

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Can automated vehicles improve port efficiency?

The ITS MARAD study found off-site staging areas with autonomous shuttles or virtual gates offer ports the best benefit-cost ratios.

Mar 21, 2019 on Dec 27, 2018AmericanShipper.com