PierPass Advisory Committee Continues Review of Extended Gate Options

LONG BEACH, Calif., Dec. 12, 2016 – The PierPass Advisory Committee met on Dec. 8 to review potential alternatives to the current extended gates model used at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach under the OffPeak Program.

The meeting continued a process that began at an Oct. 20 workshop, where the 13 container terminals that comprise the West Coast MTO Agreement (WCMTOA) met with more than 70 leaders representing importers, exporters, trucking companies, logistics providers, government representatives and other stakeholders.

Under this process, the terminals are working with industry stakeholders to review extended gate alternatives proposed by various interested parties. The proposals offer different approaches to spreading out truck traffic more evenly across the daytime and nighttime hours of operation at the terminals, while continuing to operate and fund extended gate hours.

The alternatives reviewed include variable pricing, under which the Traffic Mitigation Fee would be higher in times of high gate activity and lower in times of low gate activity; a lower flat fee applying both to day and night moves, with appointment systems to help regulate traffic flow; and port-wide peel-off, in which trucks would operate like taxis in an airport queue and each pick up the next available container, compared with the current system under which a specific container must be located, dug out of the container stack and moved onto a specific truck.

At the Dec. 8 meeting, the PierPass Advisory Committee reviewed the feedback received at the Oct. 20 meeting, and members offered their points of view on the benefits and challenges of the three alternative models. During the Dec. 8 meeting, the first option – variable and dynamic pricing – received no support from Committee members, echoing the cool reception it received at the Oct. 20 workshop. This option has been removed from consideration.

During the remainder of the Dec. 8 meeting, attendees offered detailed feedback on the “flat fee tied to an appointment” and “port-wide peel-off” options.

An initial draft report will now be prepared by PierPass staff, which the Advisory Committee will review and meet to discuss in February. The subsequent revision of the report will go to the Extended Gates Subcommittee for review and feedback in March. PierPass is scheduled to distribute the final draft of the Extended Gates Report and Recommendations in mid-April, and a follow-up to the Extended Gates Workshop has been scheduled for early May.

The OffPeak program is managed by PierPass Inc., a not-for-profit company formed by WCMTOA to coordinate multi-terminal programs addressing congestion, air quality and security. The PierPass Advisory Committee, established in 2005, includes a broad range of cargo owners, trucking companies, terminal operators and other stakeholders.

PierPass launched the OffPeak program in 2005 to reduce severe cargo-related congestion on local streets and highways around the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Using a congestion pricing model, PierPass charges a Traffic Mitigation Fee (TMF) on weekday daytime cargo moves to incentivize cargo owners to use the OffPeak shifts. The TMF also helps pay for the labor and other costs of operating the OffPeak shifts.

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Truck Turn Times in Q2 were Fastest in Two Years at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif., July 13, 2016 – In the second quarter of 2016, trucks were able to pick up and deliver containers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach more quickly than in any other quarter over the last two years, according to monthly data reported by marine terminals and compiled by PierPass Inc.

In both May and June, turn times fell below 40 minutes during the Peak shift and below 45 minutes during the OffPeak shift for the first time since the second quarter of 2014. Turn time measures how long it takes a truck to drop off or pick up a container at a marine terminal. The average turn times for the full quarter were 40.8 minutes (Peak) and 43.0 minutes (OffPeak), down from 55.3 minutes (Peak) and 58.4 minutes(OffPeak) during the fourth quarter of 2014.

In order to increase cargo velocity, terminals have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new automation technology and other infrastructure. They have also implemented new procedures to address challenges presented by the arrival of much larger new ships, the spread of vessel-sharing agreements and the transition of chassis ownership from shipping lines to leasing companies. Terminals have also increased their coordination with trucking companies to extend the use of free-flow or peel-off procedures for rapid delivery of large groups of containers.

More of the terminals have also moved to adopt appointment systems, to better spread cargo movement over the hours of operation and coordinate which areas of the yard are being worked to enable more efficient use of container-moving equipment. As of July 2016, seven of the 13 terminals are using appointment systems, with more expected to come online by the end of the year.

“Through investment, innovation and collaboration with other port stakeholders, the terminals have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to overcome operational challenges,” said PierPass President John Cushing. “This ability, combined with the capacity, flexibility and geographic advantages of Los Angeles and Long Beach, has maintained our position as the premier port complex in North America.”

“We are encouraged by the recent turn time results and appreciate the work that has been done to attain these gains,æ said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We look forward to partnering with stakeholders to obtain further reductions and additional supply chain efficiencies.”

During the second quarter of 2016, more than 850,000 containers were picked up or delivered on weeknights or Saturdays during the OffPeak shifts established by PierPass. Without OffPeak, those truck trips would take place during weekday daytime traffic, greatly increasing congestion on the roads and highways of nearby communities.

PierPass launched the OffPeak program in 2005 to reduce severe cargo-related congestion on local streets and highways around the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Using a congestion pricing model, PierPass charges a Traffic Mitigation Fee on weekday daytime cargo moves to incentivize cargo owners to use the OffPeak shifts. The TMF also helps pay for the labor and other costs of operating the OffPeak shifts.

Since 2005, OffPeak has taken more than 35 million truck trips out of daytime Southern California traffic and diverted them to less congested nights and weekends.

For more information about turn times and how PierPass measures them, please see our Q&A at http://goo.gl/PiOjBp.

About PierPass
PierPass is a not-for-profit company created by marine terminal operators at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach to address multi-terminal issues such as congestion, air quality and security. PierPass launched the OffPeak program in 2005 to reduce cargo-related congestion on local streets and highways around the ports by establishing regular night and Saturday work shifts. Since 2005, OffPeak has taken more than 35 million truck trips out of daytime Southern California traffic and diverted them to less congested nights and weekends. About half of all port truck trips now take place during the OffPeak shifts. For more information, please see www.pierpass.org.

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California Political and Environmental Leaders Laud PierPass OffPeak Program for Decade of Impact

Program Diverts 34 Million Truck Trips From Los Angeles / Long Beach Peak Traffic Since 2005

LONG BEACH, Calif., July 23, 2015 – PierPass Inc. today celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the OffPeak Program, which established regular night and Saturday work shifts at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, and pledged continuing efforts to minimize cargo-related congestion in and around the ports. Since July 23, 2005, OffPeak has taken 34 million truck trips out of daytime Southern California traffic and diverted them to less congested nights and weekends.

PierPass created OffPeak as a private sector solution to what was then a critical public problem: after a rapid rise in cargo volume in the early 2000s, drayage trucks were causing severe congestion on the roads and highways and in the neighborhoods around the ports, while thousands of idling trucks caught in this traffic every day added to air pollution. The ports came under strong community and political pressure to find a solution.

PierPass effectively doubles the capacity of the nation’s largest and busiest port complex without taxpayer money and without waiting for new infrastructure to be built. It enables the economic benefits of cargo transportation – which provides nearly 700,000 Southern California jobs and generates more than $10 billion in state and local taxes annually – while greatly mitigating the traffic and air quality impacts of the ports’ operations. OffPeak now regularly diverts about half of the roughly 150,000 weekly truck trips to nights and Saturdays.

“Heavy-duty trucks are the largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions in our region,” explains South Coast Air Quality Management District Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein. “By decreasing the time that trucks are idling and stuck in traffic, the OffPeak program has helped to significantly improve air quality.”

The mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach hailed the OffPeak program’s achievements on its 10th anniversary.

“The OffPeak program has facilitated the continued growth of the Port of Long Beach,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, “while lowering the adverse environmental impacts of their operations.”

“For the last decade, PierPass has instituted innovative and creative problem solving for the goods movement industry in Southern California,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Their program has helped to bring jobs to America’s #1 port, while helping us reduce our environmental footprint in the Harbor area.”

Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who introduced legislation to address truck congestion at the ports when he was an Assemblyman in the California Legislature, said, “Given the success of OffPeak, many don’t remember how bad it was at the ports in the years before the program’s creation. The OffPeak program really helped reduce the stress on port-adjacent communities and traffic on key freeways.”

Using a congestion pricing model, PierPass charges a Traffic Mitigation Fee (TMF) on weekday daytime cargo moves to incentivize cargo owners to use the OffPeak shifts. The TMF also helps pay for the cost of operating the OffPeak shifts, which upon introduction in 2005 roughly doubled the labor cost to handle the same amount of cargo. Container volume rose only 6% between 2005 and 2014.

On an average OffPeak weeknight, 13,500 trucks visit the marine container terminals at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. If all of these trucks were lined up bumper-to-bumper, they would form a line 145 miles long, stretching halfway to Las Vegas. Without the OffPeak program, this cargo would be crammed into a single day shift, doubling daytime volumes and once again causing severe congestion.

“We are proud of what we have accomplished with the OffPeak program, but we aren’t resting on our accomplishments,” said PierPass President John Cushing. “PierPass and the terminals are constantly working with our partners at the ports and others in the supply chain to improve the velocity of freight and reduce the environmental impact of port operations.”

About PierPass
PierPass is a not-for-profit company created by marine terminal operators at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2005 to address multi-terminal issues such as congestion, air quality and security. To learn what it takes for a truck to drop off or pick up a container at a marine terminal, see http://youtu.be/P9IJN1yIIJ4. For additional information, please see www.pierpass.org.

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PierPass Customer Service Numbers:
877-863-3310 (from inside the United States)
1-973-355-3575 (from outside the United States)

PierPass Meets with Federal Maritime Commission and Industry Stakeholders To Address Congestion

LONG BEACH, Calif., November 17, 2014—PierPass Inc. executives have concluded meetings with the five Federal Maritime Commissioners (including Chairman Mario Cordero) and with FMC staff, briefing them on measures the marine terminal operator (MTO) members of PierPass are taking to address the current congestion issues in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In a series of meetings late last week in Washington, D.C., PierPass also met with representatives from the National Retail Federation, the National Industrial Transportation League, the Waterfront Coalition, and the Agriculture Transportation Coalition to provide them with these updates.

PierPass Chairman Bruce Wargo and President John Cushing reported that the MTOs have been spending $3 million per week on additional and unbudgeted costs since September 1 to manage congestion. These expenditures include adding unscheduled gates and shifts; working overtime and through lunch and breaks; and paying truckers to move containers between terminals to load on-dock trains. The MTOs operated 73 additional gates (shifts open to truck traffic) in September, a 30% increase compared to the number of scheduled OffPeak gates, and 86 additional gates in October, a 33% increase.

PierPass also shared new initiatives its members are deploying to address chassis availability issues and to expand container delivery options to increase terminal productivity. These initiatives include the Free-Flow Program, which pre-positions large blocks of containers to enable quicker turn times for trucks picking up containers headed for a common destination.

The meetings provided an opportunity for PierPass to discuss recent calls for it to waive its Traffic Mitigation Fee (TMF). The TMF offsets part of the cost of running the OffPeak Program, which has essentially doubled the capacity of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by running regular night and Saturday shifts. Charging the TMF on daytime cargo movement also provides the incentive to use the second shift.

The OffPeak program has successfully balanced the flow of trucks to the ports, which prior to OffPeak’s introduction in 2005 was causing severe daytime congestion on Southern California roads. In the meetings, PierPass cited its concerns that by waiving the TMF, the previous congestion problems would be reintroduced and would exacerbate the current congestion caused by a range of factors including shortages of available chassis.

“The meetings with the FMC were very constructive,” Cushing said. “We also found the meeting with the stakeholder representatives to be productive. Such discussions with a broad array of industry stakeholders, similar to meetings with our own Advisory Committee, help us focus on the real impediments to our common goal, which is to move cargo as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Counting on Common Sense to Tackle Port Congestion

PierPass President John Cushing on Friday published the following op-ed in the Journal of Commerce. The original article is available here.

Counting on Common Sense to Tackle Port Congestion

John Cushing, President of PierPass Inc. | Nov 07, 2014 12:03PM EST

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are experiencing the most serious congestion in years. While a broad range of factors have contributed to the situation, there is widespread agreement in the industry that the largest single problem right now is a shortage of available chassis. That problem and related ones are the focus of intensive activity by the ports, the terminal operators and other stakeholders in the supply chain.

Meanwhile, the largest single solution to congestion over the past decade has been the OffPeak Program run by PierPass, which essentially doubled the capacity of the two ports by running regular night and Saturday shifts since 2005.

The central enabling factor of the OffPeak Program is the TMF (Traffic Mitigation Fee), which has a dual purpose. By charging the TMF on daytime cargo movement, it provides the incentive to use the second shift. And the TMF is used by the terminal operators to help cover the labor costs of operating these additional shifts.

A handful of trade associations representing importers and exporters last week called for the TMF to be temporarily suspended or turned into an around-the-clock flat fee paid on all containers, claiming this would somehow relieve congestion. None of them have explained how this would relieve congestion.

So what’s this really all about?

The current pile-on is an attempt to use the congestion crisis to accomplish an unrelated goal, one that has nothing to do with relieving congestion and would in fact greatly increase it. Many of these groups have for years advocated for eliminating the Traffic Mitigation Fee for a variety of different reasons. They love the OffPeak gates, they just don’t want to pay for them.

Truck drivers and trucking companies don’t pay the fee, and neither do federal, state or local taxpayers. The OffPeak Program was designed to be paid for by the importers and exporters who use the ports to ship and receive their cargo.

These trade associations are calling on government agencies (the Federal Maritime Commission and the two ports) to force private companies to provide highly expensive services for free. Doing so would inflict severe financial harm on the terminals.

Running the OffPeak gates is inherently expensive. Terminal operators cannot pay for the labor that is required to maintain OffPeak gates without a compensating source of revenue.

The TMF has never fully paid for the OffPeak Program. When the terminals nearly doubled the number of gate hours per week with OffPeak in 2005, container volume was expected to grow rapidly to fill the new second shift. However, by 2013 volume was only slightly higher than it was in 2005 (14.6 million TEUs in 2013 vs. 14.2 million TEUs in 2005).

In other words, in 2013 terminal operators ran nearly twice the number of shifts to move the same volume of cargo they did in 2005.

As a result, the terminals have never recovered the full costs of the night gate operations. The shortfall between TMF revenue and OffPeak gate costs was $64.9 million in 2013. The terminal operators have paid the balance every year since 2005.

The terminals are highly motivated to relieve the congestion that is choking their ability to operate and driving up their operational costs. Since September 1, the 13 terminals have been spending an additional and unbudgeted $3 million per week on extra labor to open additional gates and manage yard congestion.

Fortunately, many in the supply chain are actively working together to tackle what are widely acknowledged to be the real causes of the current congestion problems. The recent agreement by the four largest chassis leasing companies to form a common pool is a big step forward. The challenges of multi-terminal calls by alliance partners are being addressed. Terminals have been running extra shifts and gates, and have been coordinating with cargo owners and trucking companies to deliver large blocks of containers in a free-flow process. Meanwhile, trucking companies and railroads are making operational changes to better deploy their drivers and rail assets.

To achieve real solutions, we need to stay focused on the real problems.

PierPass Announces Free-Flow Program to Speed Cargo Through Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif., Sept. 11, 2014 – PierPass Inc. today launched the Free-Flow Program, testing a new cargo-handling process expected to significantly reduce the time it takes participating trucks to pick up containers at marine terminals.

Today’s random-access process – where any truck can show up at any time to pick up any container – hasn’t changed since containerization began in the early 1960’s. With new, larger ships unloading as many as 5,000 containers at a time, the random-access process is creating efficiency challenges at major ports around the world.

The free-flow process enables bulk delivery of large groups of containers belonging to the same cargo owner, trucking company or logistics company.

“To keep cargo flowing quickly as ships grow ever larger, we need to change how we move containers,” said PierPass President and CEO Bruce Wargo. “Doing the same things incrementally faster won’t solve congestion pressures.”

Mr. Wargo added, “How congested would LAX or JFK be if every taxi came for one specific person rather than picking up the first in line? That’s how the current container cargo system works.”

Under the Free-Flow Program, PierPass is working with participating terminals, trucking companies and cargo owners to test free-flow, measure its impact on cargo velocity and costs, and learn what methods and resources are needed to run free-flow successfully. If the testing demonstrates significantly positive results, free-flow is expected to become a regular part of terminal operations.

In a typical case, a large retailer that has 80 or more containers arriving on a single ship will arrange free-flow delivery with the marine terminal. In other cases, a trucking or logistics company can arrange for free-flow by consolidating groups of containers from multiple cargo owners.

Under the current system, when terminals unload containers from arriving ships they pile them into stacks in the order they come off the ship. When trucks arrive and request a specific container, it has to be located and dug out of a stack that can be four or five containers high and six containers deep. Container-handling equipment like rubber-tired gantry cranes (RTGs) must move an average of three containers to dig a specific container out of the stack and deliver it to a waiting truck. As a result, one RTG can deliver an average of only eight to ten containers per hour. Using the free-flow process, a tophandler crane is expected to deliver as many as 20 containers per hour.

The free-flow process starts when a ship is being unloaded. All containers claimed by a single owner, trucking company or logistics provider are piled into a separate stack. The cargo owner or its representative then sends a stream of trucks into the marine terminal through a special lane, and each truck takes the next container in the stack.

Trial runs of free-flow have shown a range of results and are helping terminal operators and trucking companies learn how to best structure the process. At best, trucking companies have reported turn times as short as 11 minutes, compared to about 45 minutes for a typical transaction.

Terminal operators believe that free-flow might eventually account for as much as 30% of cargo moves. While the trucks participating in free-flow will see the most dramatic improvement, the process should have a spillover benefit to the rest of the trucks, by reducing the number of trucks in the RTG lanes.

“While free-flow isn’t a silver bullet to fix all congestion issues, we believe it can significantly benefit port users,” Mr. Wargo said. “Terminal operators will continue to innovate how they handle growing cargo volumes, to ensure that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain the most reliable and productive in North America.”

For additional information about the Free-Flow Program, see Rule 14 in the West Coast MTO Agreement’s Marine Terminal Schedule No. 1, available at http://www.pierpass.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/wcmtoa-10-8-schedule.pdf.

About PierPass

PierPass is a not-for-profit company created by marine terminal operators at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach in 2005 to address multi-terminal issues such as congestion, air quality and security. To learn what it takes for a truck to drop off or pick up a container at a marine terminal, see http://youtu.be/P9IJN1yIIJ4. For additional information, please see www.pierpass.org.

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PierPass Offers Opinion on 24/7 Gate Operations at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Dear Users of OffPeak Gates,

Over the past few months, some port interests have been promoting the idea of mandating that terminals in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operate truck gates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On behalf of the terminal operators, I recently summarized our point of view on this position in a letter to a Member of the U.S. Congress. Because this issue has significant implications for port users, I am sharing our point of view with the broader cargo movement community.

While the idea may seem appealing when considered in a vacuum, it can’t survive a basic cost/benefit analysis. Such a mandate would undermine the competitiveness of the San Pedro Bay ports, as it would raise costs for shippers and drive away cargo.

When the terminals nearly doubled the number of gate hours per week under the PierPass OffPeak program in 2005, container volume was expected to grow rapidly to fill the new second shift. However, by 2013 volume was only slightly higher than it was in 2005 (14.6 million TEUs in 2013 vs. 14.2 million TEUs in 2005).

As a result, marine terminal operators have never recovered the full costs of the night gate operations. The incremental costs of the current OffPeak night gates are approaching $180 million annually, with TMF collections falling short by $64.9 million in 2013.

The West Coast Marine Terminal Operators Agreement members recently contracted an accounting firm to calculate the cost of operating seven days a week, at either two shifts or three shifts per day. The firm took into account an expected decrease in the cost of existing shifts as a portion of cargo volume flows into the new shifts.

The accounting firm provided the following estimate:

  • Working two shifts per day, seven days per week would add $121.5 million to current annual operating costs, a 22% increase
  • Working three work shifts per day, seven days per week would add $167 million to current annual costs, a 30% increase

When the gridlock of 2004 threatened cargo owners’ ability to move their goods and strongly undermined community support, cargo owners were willing to accept a fee to open up new capacity. At this time, we believe cargo owners would be extremely reluctant to pay additional fees for adding capacity that is unneeded. Neither the trucking companies nor the terminal operators are in any financial position to pay the costs. Nor would we expect the money to come from taxpayers. (The OffPeak program receives no port, city, state or federal funding.)

Mandated 24/7 operations at the terminals would be financially crippling and would offer little practical benefit to the trucking industry. The second half of the existing night shift, from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., is significantly underused by trucking companies. The hour beginning at midnight receives only 66% of the traffic received during the busy hour beginning at 6:00 p.m., while the hour starting 1:00 a.m. receives only half (53%) of the 6:00 p.m. traffic. Traffic during the start of the day shift is similarly light.

When the terminal operators added the OffPeak second shifts in 2005, they and other stakeholders expected harbor trucking companies to begin running two shifts per day. While many have done so, a large proportion of trucking companies and drivers are instead operating a single shift, spanning the afternoon of the peak daytime shift and the first half of the night shift. If they’re not even taking advantage of having two shifts, there is little or no reason to believe that they would make much use of a third shift.

Unlike in 2005, there is no capacity crisis that needs to be addressed through a hugely expensive increase in hours of operation.

Nor will 24/7 operations will do anything to fix the largest cause of daily truck gate congestion: trucking companies sending trucks to park outside the terminals waiting for the OffPeak shift to start. These trucking company practices directly influence the length of turn times. Truckers can reduce their turn times by moving containers during the 8 to 10 hours per day when lines are short, and by taking simple steps to avoid trouble tickets.

Sincerely,

Bruce Wargo
President and CEO, PierPass Inc.

PierPass Diverts 30 Millionth Truck Trip From Los Angeles, Long Beach Peak Traffic

LONG BEACH, Calif., Aug. 28, 2014 – PierPass Inc. today announced that its OffPeak program has reached a major milestone, diverting its 30 millionth truck trip from weekday, daytime traffic in Los Angeles and Long Beach since the program began in July 2005. OffPeak has greatly eased congestion on city streets and nearby freeways, and reduced emissions from trucks idling outside of terminals and in traffic.

On an average OffPeak weeknight, 17,000 trucks visit the marine container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach. If all of these trucks were lined up bumper-to-bumper, they would form a line 170 miles long, half the distance from Los Angeles to San Jose. Without the OffPeak program, this cargo would be crammed into a single day shift, more than doubling daytime volumes and causing major congestion.

Under the OffPeak program, the 13 international container terminals at the two adjacent ports operate additional shifts on nights and Saturdays. Over the past nine years, PierPass OffPeak gates have grown to handle about 55 percent of daily truck-borne container traffic at the port complex.

The OffPeak program has nearly doubled the capacity of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Substantial unused capacity remains available at the ports within the current hours of operation. A large proportion of the trucks serving the ports work only a single shift, spanning the second half of the day shift and the first half of the night shift. Lines are typically short or non-existent during mornings and after 11:00 p.m.

“The terminals here have been delivering cargo reliably and without major disruptions since the 2004 congestion crisis that led to the creation of PierPass,” said PierPass President and CEO Bruce Wargo. “Terminal operators continue to innovate to keep cargo moving quickly as industry conditions change.”

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have seen none of the major disruptions experienced by other large North American and European ports over the past year. While all import and export containers at the two ports are being delivered, the terminals have been managing through pressures caused by disruptions in several industry segments involved in cargo movement: huge new ships have begun calling at the ports, each carrying 50 percent or more containers than ships carried just a few years ago; chassis have often been in short supply since shipping lines began transferring chassis ownership to leasing companies; and the railroads that move about half of all containers in and out of the terminals have been late providing locomotives and railcars to the terminals as they struggle with nationwide capacity shortages.

The average in-terminal turn time – the amount of time it takes a truck to drop off or pick up a single container – in the first half of 2014 was 42 minutes, up 7.7% from the first half of 2013. Adding the average 20 minutes in queue outside the terminals, the typical single transaction takes about one hour.

“While port congestion has increased worldwide, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are handling these pressures better than most of the other major ports in North America and Europe,” Mr. Wargo said. “One reason LA / Long Beach works is because the PierPass OffPeak program nearly doubled the capacity of the ports in 2005, with no taxpayer funding.”

About PierPass

PierPass is a not-for-profit company created by marine terminal operators at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2005 to address multi-terminal issues such as congestion, air quality and security. To learn what it takes for a truck to drop off or pick up a container at a marine terminal, see http://youtu.be/P9IJN1yIIJ4. For additional information, please see www.pierpass.org.

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Time to Face the Real Problems with Port Trucking

From: Bruce Wargo, President and CEO, PierPass Inc.

As someone involved with or interested in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, I believe you will want to know about efforts underway that could raise the cost of moving cargo through these ports.

Within our existing Peak and OffPeak shifts, there is plenty of available capacity for additional cargo. During the second half of the OffPeak shift (11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.), many terminals are seeing very little volume, and volumes are also often light during weekday mornings.

Nonetheless, certain trucking interests and their allies have called for mandating terminal gates at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and want to impose penalties on terminals when turn times exceed a threshold.

The terminal operators believe these efforts are based on both faulty data and a failure to face the real problems with harbor trucking. In an effort to cut through to the truth, I wrote an opinion piece I wrote that was published Friday in the Journal of Commerce.

The article can be viewed here http://goo.gl/XRe3tB (requires JOC registration), and I’ve pasted a copy below.

Regards,
Bruce Wargo

It’s Time to Face the Real Problems with Port Trucking

Bruce Wargo | Jan 24, 2014 10:00AM EST

Published on JOC (https://www.joc.com)

Like death and taxes, it seems certain that wrangling between trucking companies and marine terminals over truck turn times will always be with us.

Trucking interests and their allies have called for mandating terminal gates at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and want to impose penalties on terminals when turn times exceed a threshold. These efforts are misguided, based on both faulty data and a failure to face the real problems with harbor trucking.

Imposing such measures would achieve precisely the opposite of the intended effect, by significantly increasing the cost of doing business at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, driving away discretionary cargo, and thus reducing revenue opportunity for drivers and trucking companies serving the ports.

The turn time issue is a diversion that lets the trucking industry remain in denial about the real problems – too many trucks for the current volume of cargo, and inefficient port trucking practices.

Truckers face a big challenge to their economic model, which was built around used trucks that cost $15,000. Now they have new $100,000 trucks mandated by California and port clean air rules, and it’s a challenge for them to cover that increased cost under the current harbor trucking model.

Some of them are trying to make the case that they can’t pay for their trucks because the marine terminal operators aren’t working hard enough. But reducing turn times by a few more minutes isn’t going to solve their problems.

Turn times – the amount of time it takes for a truck to pick up or deliver a container at a marine terminal –have little to do with how much money truckers earn from port drayage. The idea that truckers could move more containers and earn more money if turn times were faster is based on faulty logic. All import and export containers at the ports already are being picked up and delivered. There are no extra containers waiting to be moved.

There are roughly 30,000 container moves a day and 10,000 port trucks. There are only two ways to change the average number of moves port trucks do in a day: Attract more cargo, or reduce the number of trucks. It’s simple arithmetic.

As long as those numbers stay constant, it’s a zero-sum game for truckers. The only way one driver can do more turns is by taking turns away from another driver.

A Finger on the Scale?

The Harbor Trucking Association recently introduced its Truck Mobility Report, which measures turn times at the LA and Long Beach terminals. While we welcome efforts by third parties to track cargo movement, we believe it is crucial for policymakers to understand what the numbers represent. What they certainly don’t represent is a benchmark to build policy around.

Consider this: if a bank opens at 9:00 a.m. and you show up at 8:00 a.m., is it fair to complain about having to wait an hour for service? That is how the HTA is tracking data.

Under the HTA’s methodology, it starts counting waiting time well before the terminal gates open. In the afternoons, if a truck lines up at 4:30 p.m. for the OffPeak gates that open at 6:00 p.m., the wait is counted as starting at 5:00 p.m., according to the HTA’s description of its methodology. In the mornings, the HTA says it begins counting wait times at 6:00 a.m., two hours before the gates are scheduled to open.

Initial lines typically disperse quickly after the gates open at 8:00 a.m. While a truck arriving at 8:30 a.m. will often be able to drive right up to the gate, a truck arriving at 6:00 a.m. is guaranteed a minimum two-hour wait. It makes no sense to average those times together and portray it as a measure of terminal efficiency.

Trucking companies need to start taking more responsibility for their business practices. By refraining from sending trucks to the terminals long before the start of the daytime and OffPeak shifts, avoiding the contractually-mandated lunch hours, and taking simple steps to avoid trouble tickets, they can significantly reduce their average turn times.

How Long is Too Long?

A question no one has answered: How long should turn times be, and why?

Picking up an import container at a terminal isn’t like picking up a cheeseburger at a drive through. More than a dozen important issues need to be addressed in security, financial integrity and safety during the process. Many of these checks are required by the Federal government to protect security and enforce trade requirements and duties, while others are required by the terminal operators to ensure that valuable cargo goes to its rightful owners.

Container shipping is a complex interplay among a large group of independent parties – manufacturers, cargo owners, shipping lines, terminal operators, labor unions, truck owners, truck drivers, chassis leasing pools, warehouse owners, logistics companies, railroads and more – and actions by any of those groups can easily throw the whole system out of whack. A case in point is the unusual congestion experienced at the ports in late December and early January this year. Multiple factors converged – a large number of ships arriving at the same time, a shortage of skilled labor due to holidays, and disruptions in the chassis pool as shipping lines transfer chassis ownership to third-party fleet operators.

Cargo owners and terminal operators are already investing heavily to prevent gridlock in and around the ports. Since 2005, our marine terminal operators have worked together through PierPass to address congestion issues by running OffPeak shifts on nights and Saturdays. PierPass has been extremely successful in meeting the objective of reducing congestion. The OffPeak shifts have enabled the Ports to avoid a repeat of the gridlock that brought cargo to a standstill in 2004. About 55% of container moves now happen during the OffPeak shifts.

There is plenty of unused capacity at the terminals. In launching PierPass in 2005, the terminals nearly doubled the number of gate hours per week. Container volume was expected to grow rapidly to fill the new second shift, but by 2013 it was only slightly higher than it was in 2005. For the ports to mandate 24/7 operations at current cargo volumes would be financial suicide.

The OffPeak program, which cost $161 million in 2012, is partly funded by the Traffic Mitigation Fee charged on non-exempt containers using terminal gates during peak hours. TMF fees, paid by cargo owners, totaled $111 million in 2012. The terminal operators made up the difference and contributed an estimated $50 million on top of the TMF to pay for the cost of the second shift.

Like other business owners, terminal operators must decide every day how to operate most efficiently amid changing conditions – how much labor to hire and when to deploy it, the optimal hours of operation, and financially viable levels of service. For a governmental body to dictate such things is a recipe for inefficiency and higher costs for all.

Ultimately, it’s the cargo owners paying the bills to move their cargo through the ports. Financial levies on other industry participants will flow through to the cargo owners and drive away their business.

The marine terminal operators are already bearing the financial burden of improving the efficiency of port operations. More governmental interference will not help, and will more likely than not hurt those it was intended to benefit. The real problem facing harbor trucks is one of oversupply – too many trucks chasing a finite number of containers. If the trucking industry is not willing or able to reduce the number of port trucks, then the only real solution is to increase the number of containers moving through the ports. The last things the ports need right now are higher costs and less flexibility.

Bruce Wargo is president and CEO of PierPass, Inc.

The Truth About Turn Times: PierPass Video and Journal of Commerce Article Shed New Light

To increase understanding of the truck turn time issue at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, PierPass has created two important new pieces of content.

The first is a video, “A Day in the Life of the Terminal Gates at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” available above and through this link: http://youtu.be/dPvYq4rZI00

The second is an op-ed article that was published November 7 in the Journal of Commerce, available below and through this link: http://goo.gl/b9EWTu

Fact and Fiction at LA-Long Beach

Bruce Wargo | Nov 07, 2013 11:30AM EST
The Journal of Commerce

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have made tremendous strides in accelerating container movement in and out of the marine terminals. Most significantly, night and Saturday off-peak shifts run by PierPass at the 13 port terminals now handle as many as 17,000 container moves per shift compared with less than 15,000 for the average day shift — leaving the gridlock of 2004 a fast-fading memory.

Our terminals are some of the busiest and most productive in the world. In fact, Long Beach was tied for North America’s most productive port in a July 2013 Journal of Commerce report. Together, the two adjacent ports handle about 40 percent of all U.S. imports, while retaining plenty of spare capacity to handle volume growth.

Despite all that, some trucking interests continue to traffic in misinformation about productivity at the ports. At a recent meeting of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, for example, representatives of the trucking community said typical turn times are two or three hours. With all due respect, that is simply false.

Here are the facts: The average in-terminal turn time across the 13 terminals in the ports during September 2013 was 36.4 minutes during day shifts and 41.1 minutes during night shifts, according to RFID tracking data. Adding 20 minutes for the average queue outside the gates, the turn takes an hour.

In 2011, the ports, terminals and trucking community published a comprehensive turn time study at the ports using GPS to track trucks. The study found:

  • The median wait time outside the gates was 20 minutes.
  • Only 9 percent of waits in queues outside the gates were more than an hour.
  • Only 3 percent of visits took three hours or more, including queue time and terminal time.

No system can eliminate all lines. From congested freeways during rush hour to movie ticket queues on a Friday night, lines form when everyone tries to use the same infrastructure at the same time. Container terminals are no different.

Every day, some trucks line up as much as 90 minutes before the gates open for the day and night shifts, guaranteeing themselves a long wait and creating a backlog. It’s like showing up at a restaurant 90 minutes before it opens and then complaining about the long wait. Trucks can avoid the longest lines of the day by avoiding the start of the shifts.

Those backlogs clear up quickly once the gates open. In fact, many terminals hire extra labor to open the morning and night gates an hour early — often at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m., and at 5 p.m. rather than 6 p.m.

During much of the day and night shifts, there is little congestion at the terminals. Although conditions vary, truckers can typically find the shortest lines by arriving from 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. That’s 10 hours a day when there are virtually no lines to enter the terminal gates.

To help trucking companies gauge congestion levels and make informed decisions on when to send drivers, PierPass has added live camera feeds of terminal gates to our Web site, pierpass.org. These feeds typically get more than 2,000 views a day.

In another initiative to keep trucks moving quickly, we are working with terminals and trucking companies to reduce the number of transaction problems. These problems — exceptions from normal processes that result in the issuance of “trouble tickets” — on average add about an hour to the turn time, according to a 2011 report by the National Cooperative Freight Research Program, and are responsible for many of the transactions that take the most time. Less-experienced drivers and companies that don’t serve the port regularly receive trouble tickets much more frequently, the NCFRP found.

Among a variety of causes, transaction problems happen commonly when truckers arrive to pick up import containers that are on hold. Containers can be put on hold for a variety of reasons, including U.S. Customs release, agricultural inspection and unpaid steamship charges or traffic-mitigation fees. Another common trouble ticket cause is when trucks deliver export containers with incorrect booking number information.

In these and other cases, trucking companies can avoid trouble tickets by checking the terminals’ online systems before prematurely sending a truck to the gates. APL Terminal in Los Angeles estimates that 65 percent of all trouble tickets can be prevented by checking online before sending a truck to the terminal.

We understand and share truck drivers’ desire to keep traffic moving as quickly as possible. But we must acknowledge the faulty logic behind the idea that truckers could move more containers and earn more money if turn times were faster. All import and export containers at the ports already are being picked up and delivered. There are no extra containers waiting to be picked up. The only ways truckers can get more turns is by increasing overall cargo volume or reducing the number of trucks.

This isn’t to say terminals don’t want to reduce turn times. In fact, we need to find ways to speed container movement if we’re going to be able to handle the increased cargo volume expected by 2020. The terminals are actively evaluating ways to change port processes to increase productivity. Watch this space.

Bruce Wargo is president and CEO of PierPass Inc.