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:

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

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, 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.

Trouble Ticket Report #5 – WBCT

As part of our continuing effort to better understand trouble tickets and their causes West Basin Container Terminal (WBCT) in the Port of Los Angeles has provided the fifth in our series of reports.

WBCT’s report is the first in our series to break out average delays caused by individual types of trouble tickets. During the day gates, the longest delays – an average of 57 minutes in January and February – are caused by dispatching drivers to move a container before the Traffic Mitigation Fee has been paid. During the night gates, arriving too early before the appointment time or the start of the night gates is the longest cause of delays, at an average of 27 minutes.

At WBCT, the largest generator of trouble tickets is truck registration information in their database. Interestingly, it is also the easiest and least time-consuming (11 minutes on average) to fix.

Like previous reports, many of the issues that generate a trouble ticket and additional truck delays can be avoided with some advance checking in the terminal computer system for import availability, booking number accuracy and TMF payment status.

In this month’s example (please see below), Jeff Boden details WBCT’s experience with trouble tickets for January and February of 2013 and provides tips on how to avoid them.

Bruce Wargo
President & CEO
PierPass, Inc.

WBCT Trouble Transaction Observations

In an effort to improve our customers’ experience while on terminal we have been tracking the number and type of trouble transactions and the length of time needed to correct them. Through our observations we have noticed that the trucking community is preparing their drivers for the terminal more and more, but there is still room for improvement.

Your efforts to reduce the frequency of these problems have been noticed. During the last two months at WBCT, we have completed 133,305 gate moves, with only 5,932 going to the trouble window, or generating trouble tickets. That means only 4.45% of the drivers at our terminal had a trouble transaction to correct.

Frequency of Trouble Transactions by Cause

As you will see from our data below, the largest single cause of top trouble tickets issued at WBCT is trucks arriving with incorrectly registered RFID tags. Most of these troubles are from the truck not being registered for the company that the driver is reporting he is driving for. You can also see that this is the quickest trouble for us to resolve at only 11 minutes on average. This issue can be avoided entirely by ensuring that your drivers are correctly registered to your company with eModal before they enter the terminal.

Another major contributor at the trouble window is the customs hold. It is our procedure to have drivers come to the window with their paperwork to clear customs holds. While the number of trouble transactions due to this cannot be changed, the time spent at the window can certainly be reduced by checking your containers on our website ahead of time for these types of holds and sending your driver in with all necessary paperwork or fees due.

We also see heavy volume at the trouble window with drivers that do not have the correct Pin number for their transaction. This takes drivers an extra 17-21 minutes to get their container on average and accounts for as much as 16% of all trouble transactions. By making sure that drivers have the correct information, this number can be greatly reduced.

Breakdown of Trouble Transactions over January and February

Breakdown of Trouble Transactions over January and February

Time Lost

Two unnecessary trouble tickets that have caused long wait times can be easily corrected.  The first is arriving too early for the scheduled pick-up appointment time.  Drivers should arrive at the terminal no earlier than one hour from their scheduled pick-up appointment time.  This will allow them to complete any return moves and stage for the pick-up.  Drivers arriving prior to one hour before their appointment   will have to wait causing undue stand-by time.  WBCT will process drivers in for PierPass pick-ups at 1700, and 1800 for Export PierPass returns.  Drivers arriving prior to that time will be forced to wait outside the gates until those times. Please dispatch your drivers accordingly, as over the last two months we have seen average wait times at 28 minutes for imports and 57 minutes for exports due to the above mentioned troubles.

The second most time-consuming trouble ticket is issued to drivers with booking issues or trucking company issues.  The booking issue could be anything from a full booking to the wrong size or type of container on a booking.  The trucking company issues are most commonly that the trucking company is not registered with the steamship line or the trucking company has been put on hold by the steamship line.  These issues can be avoided by regularly checking your booking, correctly dispatching drivers and making sure your company is currently registered and clear of any steamship line holds.  Please confirm both of these items prior to dispatching drivers to the terminal.

Equipment holds are the third most time-consuming trouble ticket issued to drivers.  Drivers arriving to pick up containers or chassis that are on hold will receive these unnecessary trouble tickets.  Information pertaining to container and chassis availability is available on our website  The information provided is current and drivers should never be dispatched to pick up a container or chassis that is showing on hold without consent from the terminal.

Average Delays (in minutes) by Type of Trouble Transaction in January and February

Average Delays (in minutes) by Type of Trouble Transaction in January and February


By following our above recommendations, we believe that trouble tickets and wait times can be reduced by at least 30%.  We also recommend familiarizing yourselves with Voyager Track Website (, which offers several tools our customers can utilize including appointment setting, container availability and payment options.  We also encourage you to reach out to our customer service staff for assistance resolving or avoiding these issues if you can’t resolve the issue online.  The customer service group can be reached via email at and

Trouble Ticket Report #4 – YTI

As part of our initiative to reduce the number of transaction problems experienced when trucks pick up or deliver containers at the marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, PierPass has been surveying terminal operators to determine the most common causes of trouble tickets.

In this month’s example, Bill Peratt and Doug Hansen from Yusen Terminal Inc. (YTI) present their terminal’s experience for the months of November and December of 2012 and January of 2013. As with other terminals, a large percentage of trouble tickets could be avoided by checking the terminal’s web site or phone system before sending a driver to the terminal.

Although most trouble tickets can be avoided, it is important to understand that some containers such as hazardous, over dimensional and reefer containers will be issued a trouble ticket in order to have terminal staff review important paperwork, confirm reefer settings and confirm dimensions for terminal and vessel operations.

Bruce Wargo
President & CEO
PierPass, Inc.


Over the past three months as many as 8.25% of truckers attempting to enter YTI have been issued Drivers Assistance or “Trouble” tickets. The most common causes of trouble tickets included unavailability of import containers and booking number issues for export containers. Trouble tickets for both situations can be avoided by checking the terminal’s online container and booking number availability programs before sending a truck.

Another significant cause was import containers located in areas of the container yard that are closed due to vessel loading or unloading. As these partial yard closures are very dynamic, YTI suggests dispatchers check the YTI website shortly before sending a truck.

Trouble Ticket Analysis

The last three months show the following totals for trucker activity:

Month Total Passes Issued Total Trouble Tickets Percentage
Nov 2012 40,919 2,925 7.1%
Dec 2012 40,161 3,315 8.25%
Jan 2013 48,285 3,304 6.84%

The top 8 categories for the past three months are listed below:

Trouble Ticket Category November 2012 December 2012 January 2013
Booking error/number/equipment/TMF Hold 866 861 728
Closed Area of Yard 690 880 951
Line Empty not Allowed 499 363 195
Bad Container Number 158 217 229
Container on Customs/Freight/Terminal Hold 141 221 259
Trucker Not Authorized for Line 96 92 100
Container has Already Been Delivered 96 92 100
Free Time Has Expired 19 72 75
Total for Month 2205 2760 2611

Percentages for the top 8 categories in each month are presented:

PP Pie Chart

The best way for truckers to turn around quickly is to avoid trouble tickets.  Here is how you and your dispatchers can avoid these costly delays and help improve the overall experience when picking up or delivering a container to YTI.

YTI and its Steamship Line partners have made available several online resources for the trucking community. The YTI website, has complete information on import container availability and hold status. Steamship Line sites present all necessary booking information.

PP Yusen

For a live view of the in and out gates as well as the chassis yard at YTI, please also visit our website, to find “Terminal Cameras” on the bottom right hand side of our home page.  This view will allow you to see what a driver can expect on arrival. Please note that the gates are generally underutilized in the first half of the day.


To be sure that you and your dispatchers have the most up to date scheduling information about YTI’s gates and yard areas, please refer to the YTI website homepage or the eModal website at

Pre- Dispatch / Departure Checklist and Terminal Contacts

PierPass continues to survey terminal operators at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports to determine the most common causes of trouble tickets. Initial finding show that trouble tickets, while  caused by a range of issues, usually are tied to inaccurate or incomplete information about an import container delivery or an export booking problem. 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. Below is a checklist and resources to assist the trucking community in finding the correct information about container deliveries and export bookings.

Click to Download

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