Vancouver truckers back to work (with some good ideas for Hampton Roads).

As we wrote about here a few weeks ago, Hampton Roads is looking into ways to better handle truck congestion and terminal activity in a bid to improve productivity and the relations between longshore labor and the truckers who pick up and drop off containers at the port.

For six long and painful weeks for Port Metro Vancouver, truckers struck the terminal.  The majority of the affected cargo was for local pickups and deliveries, as well as transloads that took place for commodities such as lumber and paper.  For shippers and consignees at inland destinations whose cargo came and went via rail, the impact was minimal.

Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG, appearing in The Province, March 3, 2014.

Terminals and carriers declared force majeure and began diverting containers to other ports in the Pacific Northwest.  This left shippers to foot the bill and make arrangements to move their containers from the US across the border for delivery.

Several of the key components of a fourteen point plan agreed to by both sides hinge on performance improvements at the terminals (tiered penalties for terminals taking more than ninety minutes to complete a truck transaction), and compensation for the truckers if those improvements are not forthcoming.  The federal government is going to increase trip payments for truckers and a change in the handling of fuel surcharges will benefit drivers.

For the drivers’ part, they are going to be held to an accountability program requiring a minimum trucking rate in the harbor and penalties for those who undercut them.

Vancouver is also going to move forward with plans to create a single portal through which a port-wide reservation system can be established and share as much information through that portal, including booking information, motor carrier data, driver and container numbers and traffic flow updates.

Bill Mongelluzzo, who has covered ocean carriers and ports and labor for many years and is based on the US West Coast for the Journal of Commerce has an excellent article that is worth reading.  He draws parallels to the Vancouver solutions and how much sense they would make at other congested seaports in the US, such as LA/Long Beach, New York and here at home in Norfolk.