Turn Times Inside LA-LB Terminals Best Since Early 2014

Truckers calling in Los Angeles-Long Beach are experiencing the lowest in-terminal service times since longshore labor issues in the fall of 2014 created the worst port congestion in more than a decade, according to PierPass. The organization which represents the 13 container terminals in the largest U.S. port complex, stated that cargo is moving through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at velocities not seen since the first half of 2014. The release said the average amount of time trucks spent inside terminals in October receiving or dropping off containers was 48.3 minutes during night and weekend gates and 46.3 minutes during the daytime gates Monday through Friday. That was down sharply from the average in-terminal service times of more than 60 minutes experienced from November 2014 through through the spring months this year when the ports were severely congested due to labor strife associated with the coast wide International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) contract negotiations.

Although the in-terminal service times demonstrate that the ports have returned to normal, total truck visit times, which include truck waits outside of the terminal gates plus the in-terminal service times, were actually slightly longer on average in October than they were in recent months, according to the Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California (HTA). According to the HTA’s truck mobility data that is gathered each month via GPS monitoring of truck trips in the harbor, the average truck visit in October was 92 minutes. That was up slightly from 89 minutes in recent months. Also, a data point that truckers consider more troubling is that an average of 25 percent of the visits lasted two hours or longer.

One message to be derived from these reports is that the severe congestion that plagued the terminals during the ILWU work slowdowns is over. Once truckers enter the gates at most terminals, they are processed according to the “new normal” that prevails in this era of mega-ships operated by carrier alliances that hold the containers of as many as six different lines on each vessel. These complex logistical operations are further complicated by occasional chassis shortages now that the approximately 82,000 chassis in use in the harbor are no longer owned by the carriers, but rather are owned and managed by three large equipment leasing companies in a pool of pools.

A second message is that the total visit time, including the time that drivers spend in queues outside the gate, will continue to vary based on driver habits as well as conditions present at the individual terminals. It is still common for some drivers to show up early each morning and wait for the gates to open at 8 a.m. Also, drivers often show up around 4 p.m. on weekdays and wait until 6 p.m. to enter the terminals because that is when the daytime traffic mitigation fee of more than $100 is waived under the extended gates program that PierPass has managed since 2006. The HTA truck mobility data include the wait times outside the gates, but terminal operators argue that they shouldn’t be held accountable for when drivers choose to show up at their facilities. On the other hand, the HTA numbers continue to show a wide variation of truck visit times among the 13 terminal operators. The more efficient terminals consistently have visit times of 70 to 80 minutes, whereas the least efficient facilities have average visit times of 100 to 125 minutes. Also, the least efficient terminals have the highest percentage of visits that last two hours or longer. Terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach remain open longer than their counterparts in any other port complex. PierPass noted that the 13 terminals had an average of 82 hours of operation each week in October which included five full shifts each weekday and four to five night and weekend gates. The terminals also offered early flex gates and stayed open through the hour-long lunch breaks as needed.

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