Extended port and shipper hours a plus for truckers

| 9/4/2003

Terminal operators in the busiest U.S. ports, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and New Jersey, are staying open longer to reduce congestion, but some importers and exporters aren’t maintaining similar hours, according to Traffic World Magazine.

Ports and terminal operators are under pressure to improve productivity, reduce diesel emissions from idling trucks and relieve traffic jams. Extending gate hours, either through a second shift (6 p.m. to 2 a.m.) or an early morning shift (3 a.m. to 8 a.m.) is the least complicated solution, according to various groups.

However, if importers and exporters won't pay the extra cost of keeping their distribution centers open for a second or third shift, truckers won't use the extended-hours gates. The truckers don't want to risk the liability of holding a container of costly merchandise overnight.

“Lowering the time that truckers wait in terminals is a vital factor in motivating shippers, warehouses and drayage providers to take advantage of off-peak gate hours,” said Robin Lanier, executive director of the Waterfront Coalition, which represents importers and retailers. “The distinct benefit to all these entities in moving to after-hour gates is the ability to receive cargo much more quickly. This advantage will swiftly evaporate if truckers wait an hour and a half to receive cargo.”

Failure to act invites legislation such as a new California law that allows marine terminals to be fined $250 for every truck that must idle more than 30 minutes, the coalition said. The law has encouraged terminals to establish appointment systems for trucks.

Meanwhile, the coalition is urging its members to support extended gates by committing enough traffic to off-peak hours to make the gates financially attractive to terminals. The coalition recently surveyed cargo owners and consolidators and found they are increasingly taking advantage of gates that are open at night.

“There appear to be some initial problems that cargo owners and their drayage companies need to work out as they try to use gate hours,” Lanier said. “As time passes, these kinks are worked out and more cargo is moved to off hours.”