Transportation Industry Groups Seek FMC in Push Back Against Demurrage, Detention

A coalition of truckers, cargo interests, and trade organizations is preparing to ask the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to restrict charges for late pickup or delivery of containers. Spearheaded by the American Trucking Association (ATA), the coalition’s argument is that late fees shouldn’t be imposed if congestion at terminals makes it impossible to pick up or deliver containers before expiration of free storage time set in terminals’ or ocean carriers’ tariffs.

Demurrage is assessed on cargo left at the terminal beyond allotted free time. Per-diem detention is charged for late return of carriers’ containers. These fees are designed to discourage use of terminals for long-term storage, and to improve equipment utilization. Complaints about the penalties spiked last year after truckers at congested ports such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York-New Jersey and Virginia said port congestion made it impossible to pick up or deliver containers before late fees kicked in. Ocean carriers have noted that port congestion is a complex issue with myriad causes, and that shippers, truckers, ports, terminal operators, and uncontrollable factors such as weather, may share the blame.

The FMC said they have received plenty of anecdotal evidence but were short on hard data needed to support agency action. The commission invited the industry to submit evidence of allegedly unreasonable practices, and published a report highlighting it’s findings back in April after hosting 4 forums on the subject. The coalition led by the ATA is expected to file its petition in the near future after collecting more data. Click on the link below to see the FMC’s report from April.