June 30, 2015
July 4th this year falls on a Saturday. We have confirmed that all Oakland terminals WILL be open on Friday, July 3, 2015. Furthermore, Bloody Thursday officially falls this year on Sunday, July 5, 2015. No work will be performed on Sunday 5, 2015. We are still waiting to confirm if the terminals will be open on Monday, July 6, 2015.
I would like to take this time to remind the shipping community that the current terminal congestion problems we have been facing in Oakland took a true turn for the worse after the July 4th weekend in 2013. Increased freight volumes accompanied by a four day weekend for longshoremen and terminal consolidation resulted in our first glimpse of the terminal congestion problems we are now battling. The problems that began that July 4th weekend in 2013 have not subsided.
We are fortunate that terminals this year look like they won’t be celebrating with a four day weekend. However I still expect to see increased congestion at the terminals as we return from the holiday weekend.
What may be unfortunate is that many importers and exporters will be taking Friday, July 3rd off, when the terminals are open and then coming back to work on Monday, July 6th, when it is possible the terminals may be closed. Our hope is that terminals will be open on Monday, July 6th.
In other news, Evergreen announced that starting July 1, 2015, the carrier will only be offering four free days of free time at Oakland and Tacoma for standard containers. In the past, Evergreen offered five free days. From my discussions with Evergreen officials in Oakland, they are making this decision in order to encourage importers to pull out containers faster from the terminals.
Evergreen’s Ben E. Nutter terminal in Oakland finally received the extra transtainers earlier in June. This is allowing the terminal to open up additional appointment times each day for picking up containers. However despite the extra capacity to move containers, Evergreen has found that not enough truckers are coming in to pick up containers despite the reasonably fast turn times.
Unfortunately, Evergreen’s Oakland terminal is a victim of their own efficiency in this case. Truckers line up earlier in the day to pick up and return containers in the more difficult terminals. They then use Evergreen as a fall-back later in the day. I therefore see Evergreen’s decision to limit the amount of free time at their terminal as an effort to push importers to pick up containers faster.
As I mentioned in previous posts, we are now operating under the assumptions that current port conditions are here to stay and that this is the new normal. The ports desperately need more drivers to fill in the gaps as we continue to struggle to find truckers to move containers. One of our trucking partners shared the following message with me last week:
Over the past 9 months, we’ve seen a much larger amount of drivers leaving the drayage industry. Drivers are frustrated with the terminals. Our company drivers are paid by the hour, the highest rates of all companies at the Port of Oakland. Even with that, we’ve lost a bunch of drivers over the past few months. Nearly every one of them has left the drayage industry. Their biggest complaint is sitting in lines for hours, not being able to move. On top of that, the labor in the terminals treat them horribly. The mental frustration these drivers go through is getting to be too much.
We’re still able to find drivers, but the best drivers don’t want anything to do with the port. We have significantly more trucks than we did 12 months ago, but the productivity of those trucks is about 55%-60% of what it was 12 months ago (and it wasn’t great then). We cannot move nearly the volume we used to because we spend too much time at the terminals. For drivers out here in the valley, our goal was always 2 trips/day between the valley and Oakland. That happens about 50% of the time now, and when it does, it takes nearly all of the driver’s available on duty hours (14/day by law) to get it done.
I do hope that trucking companies find a way to lure more drivers back to the ports as the importing and exporting community are desperately in need of more truck power.
I wish everyone a happy July 4th!
t: 650-873-9050 x1019