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Virginia port drivers form new coalition

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer

 

Trucker Paul Yurkovac recently spent six hours shuttling unsafe containers from inspection lines to port maintenance shops – burning precious earning time because of faulty equipment owned by shipping lines but managed by port systems.

“It took me six hours of work to recover a $40 drayage fee,” Yurkovac said.

PORT BRIEFS

Officials at the Port of Los Angeles met with Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, on June 11 to discuss development of a day-pass system for long-haulers who make occasional port calls.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have each adopted clean truck plans that will require all truck engines to meet 2007 emission standards by 2012.

The Port of San Diego is launching a Clean Truck Program focusing on grants for truck owners who plan to make 150 or more visits per year.

The program will provide grants for truck retrofit and engine replacements.

The port’s www.portofsandiego.org Web site lists applications and other information.

The day highlighted a growing problem for truckers at many ports: Holes in containers and chassis with bad brakes and tires routinely send drivers from inspection line to maintenance line, all for work on equipment owned by private companies but overseen by port officials.

Yurkovac, an owner-operator who works every day at the harbor at Hampton Roads, VA, is an OOIDA member and a committee member of the recently formed Owner-Operator Coalition of Virginia.

The coalition is working to address its members’ chief concern: That the port’s system of relying on drivers to move and inspect port chassis and port containers is unsafe, is inefficient, and forces the drivers to work for no pay.

“The drivers are at the lowest end of the labor pool, and they get stuck with whatever nobody else wants to do,” Yurkovac told Land Line. “I think drivers would rather just come here, have the equipment ready, and get the job done and drive away.”

Because most drivers are paid by the mile, time spent getting equipment inspected and fixed isn’t usually paid.

Drivers can spend an hour or more for authorized shop workers to remove previous load decals from containers, and risk being kicked out of the port if they’re caught removing the stickers themselves.

And there are other concerns.

Much of the equipment owned by shipping lines, such as shipping containers and chassis, isn’t safe, Yurkovac said.

“If I was driving a car, I wouldn’t particularly want to ride next to a chassis that’s going down the interstate,” Yurkovac said.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, has met with the coalition twice to help facilitate discussions. He said the coalition is addressing its concerns through the proper channels.

“What these port truckers are engaged in is exactly the sort of action that can address real issues,” Rajkovacz said. “Because of that, it can become a template that is used elsewhere around the country.”

The coalition is working with an attorney and wants to meet soon with port leaders to address the inefficiencies of truckers managing repairs for chassis and containers.

Although new drivers have been attending each of the fledgling group’s meetings, Yurkovac said the coalition is still hoping to add to its membership of about 200 port drivers.

Interested drivers can leave a voice mail at (703) 621-5063 or e-mail the organization at info.oocva@yahoo.com.

“We need to let them know we’re taking a very firm stance on this,” Yurkovac said. “Ethically, it’s wrong. No Virginian should have to do free labor on state-owned property.”

The current highway funding legislation mandated that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration initiate a rulemaking addressing the roadability of intermodal chassis.

FMCSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in December 2006. The proposal included requirements for:

  • A U.S. DOT identification number on each chassis;
  • A systematic inspection, maintenance and repair program, complete with documentation requirements; and
  • Chassis’ owner to respond to any complaints from truckers.

There has not been any more progress on the rulemaking since the comment period on it closed in March 2007. LL

charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

 

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