What Is Causing The Backlog At The Ports In Long Beach And Los Angeles?

Topic 30814 | Page 1

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Brett Aquila's Comment
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There's a record number of cargo ships sitting off the coast of Southern California, specifically the ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles. I wanted to know if any of you go there regularly and have any information about why so many ships are waiting for offload? I don't trust the news. I'd rather hear what's going on from drivers that go to those ports.

Thanks!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Well Brett, according to the news.....

rofl-3.gif rofl-3.gif sorry.gif

Justin's Comment
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There's a record number of cargo ships sitting off the coast of Southern California, specifically the ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles. I wanted to know if any of you go there regularly and have any information about why so many ships are waiting for offload? I don't trust the news. I'd rather hear what's going on from drivers that go to those ports.

Thanks!

Hey Brett, excellent question. I haven't seen many port-related topics on here and am glad you posted this. It is exactly the reason why I left a position at the corporate office (Port Logistics Account Manager) -- and briefly a Port DM position at my home terminal in Las Vegas -- to get my CDL , because there's such a huge shortage and need of drivers at the ports.

Simply put, the ports are a mess. I'm not sure if I can include a URL here, but there are (at least) 56 cargo ships lined up at the L.A./Long Beach ports. Barely a month or so ago, there were 44.

https://www.businessinsider.com/shipping-delays-china-supply-chain-record-ships-stuck-california-ports-2021-8

While I'm not a driver yet until I pass my CDL test in about a week or so (knock on wood), I can offer a little insight from having dealt with this on the "other side" with asset drivers and third-party carriers. It's another reason why I'm planning to go into ports and feel I'll be better prepared than some drivers. We had two port drivers quit (unprepared for it) when I was a DM before I decided to move forward with CDL school.

Like many industries, there is a port staffing shortage. It isn't uncommon for drivers to get there 6+ hours early before an appointment to wait in line. All it would take is for 1-2 employees to get sick, and appointments would be cancelled the rest of the day, even worse if you were waiting in that line. This past summer there were two occasions where a particular terminal even announced it would be closed the next day due to "excessive heat". We would find out a day in advance, but all appointments scheduled for that next day would end up having to be pushed back again.

From the driver and carrier side this year, the chassis shortage made it difficult to outgate anything. If a carrier didn't have their own chassis, most of the time the terminals did not either. If a driver had an 11:00 AM appointment to pick up a container, (s)he would often get there early in the morning to wait in line, hoping they had them. Most of the time, (s)he would not be able to secure one and we'd cancel or reschedule the appointment. Of all the reasons we would end up pushing back appointments, chassis shortage was the biggest. If you didn't have your own, good luck.

On top of that is the lack of empty return appointments and lack of flexibility on the terminal side. Some terminals (like APM) made it nearly impossible. One terminal might be accepting (only) 40 reefers, while another (only) 40 high cube, and another (only) 20 standard, etc -- and only from certain ports (i.e. Hapag Lloyd, MSC, etc.). In APM's case, if you were able to get an empty return for a container, you hope it was close to your appointment to outgate a load as well, because drivers wouldn't bother waiting around or come back later, since they'd usually have more runs scheduled.

Being that carriers and drivers knew this process, we'd have difficulty securing coverage. Very few people, whether mom-and-pop or larger carriers, had any available yard space. At the very least, it was hard to come by. As a result, who would want to outgate a container when they know they aren't going to be able to return the empty for days/weeks/months? They couldn't drop it in our yard, and if they didn't have space in theirs, they'd be stuck holding it and prevented from getting additional loads until it could be returned.

Due to these significant delays and lack of drivers (and coverage), customers end up paying through the roof in demurrage fees on their containers/products. This is one of the biggest reasons we are seeing increased prices on every-day products on the consumer side. Usually, ports range from 4-7 days of free storage time. We would make an appointment to outgate a container before that time was up (the LFD/Last Free Day). After that, demurrage would accrue every day; it would differ by terminal, but it would be at least $175-$250 or so every day. Many of these containers have been backed up for weeks, so if a customer is waiting on that container of household goods, and it's been sitting at the terminal for three weeks, that's $3K or so that the customer has to be paid before a driver could pick it up. We would often have them covering demurrage every day, because once the driver couldn't secure a chassis, that appointment gets pushed back and demurrage continued to accrue.

Shortly before I moved back to the Vegas terminal, we added a port surcharge fee of $150 to every container, charged back to the customer. Why? Drivers wouldn't even bother going to the terminals knowing they couldn't get a chassis, would wait in line for hours, and/or would have no way to return that empty container for days or weeks on end.

My post is nearing its character limit, but I hope this gives a little insight into the current mess at the ports. I've seen two billboards here in Phoenix specifically mentioning port-driver salaries (albeit exaggerated) to encourage new/current drivers to do ports.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

IDMtnGal 's Comment
member avatar

Justin,

Do you now if the Port of Oakland is having the same issues? I ran fresh beef and pork to TraPac and OSI/SSA weekly 3 yrs ago. Been thinking about doing it again, but even having patience, I would hate to deal with a mess like that.

Laura

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Justin nailed it. I can’t speak to the port of LA and Long Beach but Seattle, Tacoma and Baltimore were all suffering from the same issues last year, staffing and the Covid mandates. Longshoremen don’t seem to get in much of a hurry to do anything really and if a crane operator doesn’t show up, trucks don’t get loaded. It’s only my personal observations but I’d pin it on political decisions along with Union regulations that caused a bottleneck which is slowly catching up. My advantage was that I loaded and unloaded 99% of the loads I hauled but even the delay on paperwork and customs was significantly longer.

TCB's Comment
member avatar

It’s my understanding that container drivers get paid by the load. If that’s the case, and they’re not getting loads, they might seek other driving positions, only complicating the problem.

Stevo Reno's Comment
member avatar

Knowing this situation since I live in So Cal, I would NEVER do port work lol I seen an aerial shot once of the exit at port of Long Beach, was like 20 rows of trucks bottle necked to exit with 2 lanes? looked like a truck pyramid! NO TY lol

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

TCB's Comment
member avatar

Also LA traffic. If you leave the port after 1500, it will take 3.5 hours to drive 80 miles.

Knowing this situation since I live in So Cal, I would NEVER do port work lol I seen an aerial shot once of the exit at port of Long Beach, was like 20 rows of trucks bottle necked to exit with 2 lanes? looked like a truck pyramid! NO TY lol

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

TCB, that’s definitely an issue but luckily, those roads outside the Port of LA and Long Beach allow for parking. You’ll see many drivers load and then pull out to finish up tarping and then call it a night. There are several excellent food trucks that roll through there too.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Scott M's Comment
member avatar

Does anyone know what percentage of ships are from China- in LA area and other areas mentioned? My guess is 50% +/-. I’m sure a lot come from other countries- Japan, Thailand, etc. …..

Very interesting, especially Justin’s writing. It’s clear that Covid has played a big part. IMO gov policies have been detrimental in this- giving out the “free” money. This website is the only place I have read about/seen this huge Port problem. …..

Also, this is speculation- it make sense to me that China is screwing with us, along with By Den (our leader) in order to screw up our economy. Making us dependent on our gov., and so Dems can come to the rescue on their self-made problem.

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