HTA Responds to PierPass Release on Appointments; Announces Supply Chain Operations Report (SCOR) for Beneficial Cargo Owners.
LONG BEACH, CA. – In a recent release, PierPass Inc. stated that one third of the appointments at marine terminals in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach go unused. However, in this release they neglected to highlight many details that are essential to properly depict the entirety of the situation.
By aggregating the numbers of available appointments and missed appointments across all twelve terminals, the specifics at each terminal and performance of individual trucking companies are lost. For instance, some terminals can be at maximum capacity in the San Pedro Bay while others are simultaneously slow and have many open appointments. Also, with more than 1,800 registered trucking companies, some companies miss very few appointments while others miss a large percentage.
Q2 of 2019 has been a bit of an anomaly for the industry following the wake of the tariff related cargo surges the industry saw through much of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. The higher than normal percentage of blank vessel sailings and the reduction of open shifts, specifically on the day-shift, has created many imbalances for the trucking community and an inability to preplan with any assemblance of confidence. This was further impacted by incongruent work stoppage and holiday schedules with the schedules of the major shippers using the ports. It would be a best practice to see this same data from PierPass in more detail and with regularity. The HTA would like to see more data from busy periods, such as peak season, retroactively and prospectively moving forward.
The biggest issue around available and missed appointments continues to revolve around operational challenges that haven’t fully been addressed in the San Pedro Bay harbor. Restrictions on appointments, the lack of guaranteed empty returns, and inconsistent turn-times ranging from 30 minutes to over 2-hours continue to hinder the appointment scheduling process for truckers.
Appointment restrictions requiring certain types of transactions or equipment has become an increasing issue in the harbor. In an effort to manage on-dock capacity, as things get busier terminals often introduce restrictions on their appointments. This would include such things as dual-transaction only restrictions on import appointments when the terminal isn’t accepting the type of containers a trucker needs to return. This makes it impossible to use an appointment, due to not meeting the terminal operators’ requirements for a transaction. This is one of many examples of transaction restrictions that makes it difficult for a trucker to secure or use an appointment.
Truckers also miss appointments when the ocean carrier or terminal shuts out the return of empty containers at specific locations. In an effort to force the trucker to reposition equipment for the ocean carriers for free (in violation of the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement and California Law Senate Bill 45), truckers get shutout mid-shift making it impossible for them to keep their appointment if they are attempting a dual-transaction.
As a point of clarification, it would be good for PierPass to publish the missed appointments by location and time of day. As a truckers work-day progresses, sticking to an appointment schedule becomes increasingly more difficult. With turn-times being so inconsistent, truck capacity gets strained throughout the day. Trucking companies do their best to be predictive in how they secure appointments in an effort to be able to service those appointments efficiently. Unfortunately, with vast turn-time inconsistencies it becomes more difficult to make appointments throughout the day due to capacity shrinkage from delays at terminals and traffic issues in the always congested southland of California. When a driver is stuck at a terminal for multiple hours to complete a transaction it limits the capacity for a company and leads to missed appointments. Appointments are a two-way contract. The trucker is committing to show up for the appointment, and the terminal operator is committing to honor the appointment and service a trucker in a reasonable amount of time. When one doesn’t happen, the other is also compromised. As terminal congestion causes delays, drivers may elect not to go to certain marine terminals or to stop working all together in a given day. This further compounds the issue.
This is all solved by committing to an efficient and consistent turn-time. According to the HTA’s Truck Mobility Data (TMD) powered by GeoStamp, the range of average monthly turn-times for terminals in the San Pedro Bay Port Complex for the first half of 2019 was more than 110 minutes, with a one-month low of 32 minutes at one terminal and a high of 140 minutes at another terminal. The average turn-time harbor-wide during that same six-month period was 86 minutes with 20% of the turn-times exceeding 2-hours.
For the last five years, the HTA has been leading efforts to advance the technology that drives our industry. One major effort has been working with willing terminal operators to upgrade appointment systems and champion the innovation and integration of operating systems. When PierPass 2.0 was announced, after years of advocacy from the trucking and shipping community, HTA was quoted in a letter to PierPass that stated “the industry needed to modernize appointment systems to make them more user friendly” as well as “serve as more than a labor scheduling tool, but rather be leveraged as an optimization tool.”
While some terminals have been working collaboratively with the HTA on these efforts, many terminals are just now looking at system upgrades. These older systems create operational issues for truckers, as many don’t provide the flexibility to adjust appointments as the operational dynamics shift throughout the day, forcing truckers to keep appointments scheduled as is despite the challenges to sometimes service them.
HTA has worked collaboratively with any and all technology providers to enhance systems and make them more user friendly. We have even built a trucker centric appointment system with Yusen Terminals (YTI), helped pilot and deploy Application Program Interfacing (API) with Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT), and worked with companies such as Advent Intermodal and GE Transportation to provide feedback on information portals that are being developed and deployed.
The propensity of “unused” appointments should be a direct call-to-action for terminals to upgrade their systems and introduce API connections to the trucking and shipping communities. The HTA remains steadfast in our goals to work collaboratively with our terminal partners to upgrade both marine terminal and trucker systems to allow for integrations and work together to optimize the flow of cargo in the Ports of LA & LB.
There is no denying the importance of the BCO to the trucker and the marine terminal. Without their cargo, we don’t have customers. However, there has been a lack of information flow that helps contextualize how facilities are operating. In 2013, the HTA launched Truck Mobility Data to provide a benchmark of turn-times in the port complex. In 2016, HTA partnered with GeoStamp to enhance these reporting capabilities from a monthly report to a real-time dashboard of turn-time data. This relaunch was done with a collaborative approach with marine terminal operators to better align on how data is collected and reported. These efforts continue today, and data is collected in more than a half dozen cargo gateways comprised of marine and rail terminals.
Now, the HTA is launching a new inclusive effort that will add a narrative to the monthly TMD averages that many shippers base their supply-chain decisions on. The HTA will work with terminal operators, truckers, equipment providers, and other willing partners to help provide context to what events have impacted a given facility’s monthly turn-time averages, both positively and negatively. This will also give terminal operators an ability to prepare BCOs for possible delays as a result of upcoming capital improvement projects, new efficiency programs, system upgrades, or other events to help minimize terminal congestion that could be a biproduct.
First, HTA will start publishing this report monthly for BCO members on data collected in Southern California. HTA has several large BCOs who have already signed up for this program in advance of the program launch. HTA will add additional port complexes starting with Oakland, Seattle, and Tacoma as the program takes shape. By being inclusive, it is the goal of the HTA to help better educate BCOs on the port operations in an unbiased manner that will incorporate the observations from all willing stakeholders. Several marine terminals have already volunteered sharing internal metrics to help add additional detail to existing KPI’s found in the HTA’s TMD.
The efforts to continue to improve operations and introduce efficiencies is paramount to the long-term success of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This only works with the input of all members of the supply-chain ecosystem that shippers rely on to get their goods to market. The HTA will remain committed to a collaborative approach to solving these issues and we are hopeful that others will join us.
Editor’s Note: For more information, contact Weston LaBar at (570) 242-8421 or Weston@pearstrategies.com