Lackluster freight volumes, excessive drayage times and overall economic uncertainty are plaguing the intermodal trucking community. In addition, we face increased pressure to become more “environmentally friendly.”
Some ports have created inducements for equipment upgrades, retrofits and APUs to reduce diesel emissions and are granting port truckers up to half the money. But with the inability to recoup any part of the expense, why take the grant? Who can bear an additional expense with revenue down? We need “win-win solutions” that generate more revenue opportunities for the driver.
In the best of times, hauling containers is not easy. Being forced to spend many hours at the port getting equipment owned by a shipline repaired or needlessly wasting your time while in-gating/out-gating are the biggest hassles that rob our earnings potential. This slow economic time presents an opportunity for the whole industry to develop some real solutions to the problems at the root of why many of us are operating older, less “environmentally friendly” trucks.
Ports themselves share a great deal of blame for the institutionalized inefficiency but so do the cargo owners. They should be keen to develop constructive solutions in order to avoid more costly mandates.
Yet cargo owners will “jump ship” at the drop of a hat to the cheapest provider of transportation, and their actions discourage any trucker from gambling with what little money they have to buy newer, “environmentally friendly” trucks. Why make an investment if the payback doesn’t exist?
A viable solution for stakeholders would be for ports to maintain special “express” gates for those operating the compliant or retrofitted trucks. Efficiency gains would pay for themselves and likely attract new business for the port. Cargo owners need to financially support a trucker’s ability to operate newer equipment by entering into long-term contracts so we don’t jump from carrier to carrier chasing loads.
One more thing, intermodal equipment providers need to take complete responsibility for maintenance of their containers and chassis.
Doing anything else is just putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. LL