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Mar 19, 2018

City Council to weigh environmental impacts of Port of Long Beach’s rail expansion project

Online Edition

City Council Chambers will soon be center stage for a David-and-Goliath battle – between a loose coalition of small businesses and Long Beach’s economic powerhouse.

A study on how a proposed rail yard expansion by the Port of Long Beach will affect the environment will go before the City Council on Tuesday – with port officials arguing the more than half-billion-dollar project is crucial to improving air quality and opponents saying it will hurt nearby companies.

The Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the Environmental Impact Report in January, but two businesses just outside the project’s proposed path filed separate appeals to the council, challenging the report’s breadth and accuracy.

The council appeal is the last major hurdle before the port can begin buying up properties that sit in the way of the rail yard expansion.

“We think the council will find the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) was done properly,” said port spokesman Lee Peterson. “It will hold up to the appeal.”

But, opponents said, the consequences of the project could be greater than the report suggested.

“With all those diesel trains going through,” said Stan Janocha, chief operating officer of appellant Superior Electrical Advertising, “how could it not cause major pollution?”

The expansion, on 171 acres of land in the harbor area, is slated to begin in 2020, will create 1,100 construction jobs, and will increase the number of tracks at the Pier B rail facility from 12 to 48 tracks.

But in doing so, it would require the port to acquire 39 parcels of land, forcing the closure or relocation of long-time businesses located in the project zone. And Ninth Street east of the Los Angeles River would close permanently.

Port officials say the expansion is a crucial part of its continuing effort to reduce emissions and traffic congestion around the port.

Once finished, the rail yard – the only one that connects to the docks – will provide extra storage for empty rail cars, be able to accommodate trains up to 10,000 feet long and “allow for more efficient rail operations,” according to a city staff report.

The expanded rail yard would also reduce the number of trucks needed to transport the steel shipping containers from the docks: one train can carry about 250 containers, as opposed to the one-to-one ratio for trucks, Peterson said.

The port is trying to increase the percentage of containers carried via on-dock rail to 30 to 35 percent by 2030, Peterson said. Currently, according to city documents, 24 percent of cargo is shipped by rail and the rest by truck.

“Pier B is a really importance piece,” Peterson said. “It’s absolutely necessary for achieving that goal.”

But first, the port must prove this project – estimated to cost $540 to $820 million – will not significantly damage the environment. Any major project must undergo an environmental study and, under state law, be approved during a public hearing by whatever board oversees it.

The report analyzed how the project, during and after construction, would affect seismic conditions, water quality, ground transportation and noise.

The Environmental Impact Report, which underwent a 90-day public review before its approval by the Harbor Commission, found two areas that would be significantly impacted: air quality and global climate change.

The air emissions created by the project would, at times, create more pollution than allowed by regional regulations.

“It’d be rare,” Peterson said.

But not everyone agrees.

Phillips Steel Company and Superior Electrical Advertising, both on Anaheim Street, have filed appeals against the Environmental Impact Report. The owners of both companies are expected to speak at Tuesday’s meeting. Representatives of WestPac, a coalition of businesses in the harbor area, will also speak.

Phillips and Superior are not in the path of the project, but both argue in their respective appeals that expanding the rail yard would hurt their businesses.

They argue that the air pollution would affect the health of their employees. They also say dust and noise from the trains would hamper production and meetings with customers, and the closure of Ninth Street would make it exceedingly difficult for customers, employees and emergency personnel to get to their businesses.

“We want to stay here,” said Janocha, the COO of Superior, which makes signs for companies such as Starbucks and Disney. “But we’ll have to move out of Long Beach or shut down.”

Superior has been in business for more than 50 years and employs 125 people. Besides a 50,000 square-foot warehouse, where it constructs its signs, the company has a 50,000 square-foot yard used for storing signs that are ready to be shipped out, trucks, and large recycling containers.

The back of the yard is about half a football field from where the expanded tracks would begin.

Superior often shows clients the signs before they are finished. But with the rail yard so close, it would be difficult to bring in customers, or pitch prospective clients because of the noise, Janocha said last week.

The dust would make the new signs look dirty before they were even shipped to customers, Janocha added during a tour of his facility, as strong winds whipped around the yard.

“Tracks also cause blight,” Janocha said.

Janocha said he has looked around Long Beach for other properties that could accommodate Superior’s work, but there weren’t any large enough.

They’d have to move to elsewhere, perhaps the Inland Empire – an unreasonable burden to the 43 employees who live in Long Beach.

“Many of them take public transportation,” Janocha said. “How would they get to work?”

Peterson said Port officials have been in talks with Janocha and other business owners to mitigate any effects, which he said shouldn’t be many.

“We wouldn’t want closures to happen,” he said. “We don’t see the rail yard being anything less than a good neighbor.”

Janocha said he understands persuading the council to uphold Superior’s and Phillips’ appeals is an uphill battle. Janocha reached out to every councilmember, but only heard from Lena Gonzalez, who represents the area where the project is being built.

Gonzalez did not return requests for comment.

Janocha has discussed options with his lawyer, should the appeals get denied. But he declined to discuss those options.

“It’s David versus Goliath,” Janocha said.

Online Edition

City Council Chambers will soon be center stage for a David-and-Goliath battle – between a loose coalition of small businesses and Long Beach’s economic powerhouse.

A study on how a proposed rail yard expansion by the Port of Long Beach will affect the environment will go before the City Council on Tuesday – with port officials arguing the more than half-billion-dollar project is crucial to improving air quality and opponents saying it will hurt nearby companies.

Mar 21, 2018

Long Beach City Council shoots down appeal, certifies environmental study for Port of Long Beach rail yard expansion

Online Edition

A proposed railway project that would increase the Port of Long Beach’s ability to transport cargo via train can move forward, after the City Council on Tuesday denied two appeals challenging the results of an environmental study.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved the port’s environmental impact report, which examined how the more than-half-billion-dollar rail yard expansion would affect air quality, traffic and noise.

“We believe that’s the correct decision given the findings of the EIR,” said Lee Peterson, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach. “We will continue to engage and meet with local stakeholders there so they have input.”

The port can now begin planning in earnest for the project: coming up with a budget for the project, further designing the specifics of the expansion, finding companies to work on the various aspects of construction and acquiring properties that sit in the project’s path.

The rail yard expansion covers 171 acres; construction is slated to begin in 2020 and take seven years to complete.

It would cost between $540 and $820 million.

The project would expand the number of tracks at the Pier B rail facility, the only one that connects to the docks, from 12 to 48.

Expanding the facility, port officials say, is crucial if they are to meet their goal of transporting between 30 and 35 percent of shipping containers via on-dock rail by 2030. Currently, 24 percent of containers are shipped by rail and the rest by truck.

But the expansion would also force the closure or relocation of multiple businesses in the project zone, and permanently shut down Ninth Street west of the Los Angeles River.

It will be several months before the port “will move forward with acquisition” of the properties, Peterson said. But the environmental report’s approval “gives businesses clarity on what is going to happen at some point.”

The environmental study, required by state law, went before the Board of Harbor Commissioners in January and was approved. But two companies near the proposed project site – Phillips Steel Company and Superior Electrical Advertising – filed appeals, saying the study did not adequately address the affects it would have on their business.

By shooting down the appeals, the council upheld the Harbor Board of Commissioners’ certification of the report.

It’s unclear what recourse the appellants now have to further challenge the environmental impact report, but Stan Janocha, the chief operating officer of Superior, said he and the rest of management will meet with legal counsel on Thursday.

“I’m disappointed, frustrated and sad,” Janocha said. “I’m disappointed the council decided to go this way, where there will be more pollution in a lower-income and business neighborhood.”

Janocha added that besides speaking to counsel, he’s also exploring other options, such as moving his business out of Long Beach.

“We’ve been around here a long time,” he said, noting that one-third of his workforce lives in the city. “Leaving Long Beach is one option. We have some things to think about.”

Online Edition

A proposed railway project that would increase the Port of Long Beach’s ability to transport cargo via train can move forward, after the City Council on Tuesday denied two appeals challenging the results of an environmental study.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved the port’s environmental impact report, which examined how the more than-half-billion-dollar rail yard expansion would affect air quality, traffic and noise.

Oct 05, 2015

Honor Thy Trucker

Printed edition.

We’ve just completed National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Truck drivers were treated to company cookouts, honored for safe driving and service, and in some cases received bonuses and gifts from employers. Appreciation shouldn’t stop there, however.

Trucking companies, freight brokers and shippers, in particular, need to appreciate truck drivers, not just during this week of appreciation, but every week. Many already do, and make no secret of it. But those who are less “driver friendly” risk higher transportation costs and, potentially, civil penalties and fines.

How so? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is preparing regulations on truck driver coercion that will affect motor carriers and their shipper customers. Shippers who coerce drivers to violate federal safety rules would face thousands of dollars in fine. For example, if a carrier promises overnight delivery on load that can’t possibly be delivered with driver’s 11-hour legal driving window, and the shipper knows that but looks the other way, that shipper could be held as liable for coercing the driver to violate rules as the carrier.

The coercion rule-making “will make CSA look like a walk in the park in its impact on shippers,” Mike Regan chief of relationship development at TranzAct Technologies, said at 2014’s JOC Inland Distribution Conference. And the final rule may be released by the time you read this.

Here are some interesting facts about truck drivers, courtesy of Trucking Moves America Forwards, an image campaign sponsored by the American Trucking Associations:

  • There are 3.4 million truck drivers in the U.S.
  • Professional truck drivers drove more than 421 billion miles in 2014
  • Most individual long-haul drivers average 100,000 to 110,000 miles of driving a year. Regional and city drivers will drive an average of 48,000 mile

Drivers should feel a bit more appreciated this year than a year or two ago. Most large truckload and less-than-truckload carriers have raised driver pay, often more than once and by double-digit percentages. Many trucking companies are doing more to offer drivers more consistent pay and get them home more often for time with their families.

Talk to truckers, however, and they will say many companies mastered the talk but not the walk. One driver recently wrote to me to tell me reports of carrier offering guaranteed pay levels are what one might politely call bovine excrement – not his term. Another trucker recently told me too many companies still treat drivers as outsiders rather than employees.

Efforts to boost driver pay pushed the overall average annual wage for heavy-truck drivers up 2.4 percent to $41,930 a year, about a $1,000 difference, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a bigger raise than the average U.S. worker received in 2014 - $730 or 1.7 percent to $47,230 a year, the BLS data show.

Still, $41,930 is a long way from where most trucking executives say driver pay needs to be to make a serious dent in the chronic driver shortage and really improve driver retention.

At this time last year, I suggested that trucking companies, and their customers, need to become much more “driver-centric,” and that those transportation businesses that truly recognize drivers are their most valuable resource and invest in them will win in the long haul.

Shippers need to recognize that drivers are in effect the red blood cells of their supply chains, and that nothing they produce or sell would be shipped without them. That means eliminating unnecessary detention time, providing drivers access to restrooms, and even a safe place to park if they are short on hours. It’s time for supply chains designed with drivers in mind.

We’ve just completed National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Truck drivers were treated to company cookouts, honored for safe driving and service, and in some cases received bonuses and gifts from employers. Appreciation shouldn’t stop there, however.

Trucking companies, freight brokers and shippers, in particular, need to appreciate truck drivers, not just during this week of appreciation, but every week. Many already do, and make no secret of it. But those who are less “driver friendly” risk higher transportation costs and, potentially, civil penalties and fines.

How so? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is preparing regulations on truck driver coercion that will affect motor carriers and their shipper customers. Shippers who coerce drivers to violate federal safety rules would face thousands of dollars in fine. For example, if a carrier promises overnight delivery on load that can’t possibly be delivered with driver’s 11-hour legal driving window, and the shipper knows that but looks the other way, that shipper could be held as liable for coercing the driver to violate rules as the carrier.

The coercion rule-making “will make CSA look like a walk in the park in its impact on shippers,” Mike Regan chief of relationship development at TranzAct Technologies, said at 2014’s JOC Inland Distribution Conference. And the final rule may be released by the time you read this.

Here are some interesting facts about truck drivers, courtesy of Trucking Moves America Forwards, an image campaign sponsored by the American Trucking Associations:

There are 3.4 million truck drivers in the U.S.

Professional truck drivers drove more than 421 billion miles in 2014

Most individual long-haul drivers average 100,000 to 110,000 miles of driving a year. Regional and city drivers will drive an average of 48,000 mile

Drivers should feel a bit more appreciated this year than a year or two ago. Most large truckload and less-than-truckload carriers have raised driver pay, often more than once and by double-digit percentages. Many trucking companies are doing more to offer drivers more consistent pay and get them home more often for time with their families.

Talk to truckers, however, and they will say many companies mastered the talk but not the walk. One driver recently wrote to me to tell me reports of carrier offering guaranteed pay levels are what one might politely call bovine excrement – not his term. Another trucker recently told me too many companies still treat drivers as outsiders rather than employees.

Efforts to boost driver pay pushed the overall average annual wage for heavy-truck drivers up 2.4 percent to $41,930 a year, about a $1,000 difference, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a bigger raise than the average U.S. worker received in 2014 - $730 or 1.7 percent to $47,230 a year, the BLS data show.

Still, $41,930 is a long way from where most trucking executives say driver pay needs to be to make a serious dent in the chronic driver shortage and really improve driver retention.

At this time last year, I suggested that trucking companies, and their customers, need to become much more “driver-centric,” and that those transportation businesses that truly recognize drivers are their most valuable resource and invest in them will win in the long haul.

Shippers need to recognize that drivers are in effect the red blood cells of their supply chains, and that nothing they produce or sell would be shipped without them. That means eliminating unnecessary detention time, providing drivers access to restrooms, and even a safe place to park if they are short on hours. It’s time for supply chains designed with drivers in mind.

Printed edition.

We’ve just completed National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Truck drivers were treated to company cookouts, honored for safe driving and service, and in some cases received bonuses and gifts from employers. Appreciation shouldn’t stop there, however.

Aug 17, 2017

Air getting cleaner at Los Angeles, Long Beach ports, reports show

Online edition.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reduced pollution while moving more cargo last year, according to new reports released this week.

The annual pollution scorecard shows the ports continue to make steady progress in clearing up the air around the nation’s busiest seaport and largest stationary polluter in the region, but it’s proving harder to make significant cuts in some areas.

“As emissions decline and cargo throughput rises, chipping away at what’s left gets tougher,” said Chris Cannon, director of environmental management at the Los Angeles port.

Since 2005, when the ports first began tracking pollution, diesel particulate matter emissions linked to asthma and other respiratory ailments dropped 87 percent in Los Angeles. Another harmful emission, sulfur oxides, has fallen 98 percent, and smog-forming nitrogen oxide declined 57 percent.

The Port of Long Beach posted similar findings.

Reasons for emissions cuts

Emissions have come down for several reasons, including less diesel-burning equipment along the docks, a program to reduce vessel speed and more cargo ships turning off their engines while at shore and plugging in to electrical sources. Officials also have been stressing greater efficiencies that conserve energy and burn less polluting fuel.

At the Port of Los Angeles, there’s an effort to digitize cargo data and place container boxes in off-site yards. Combined, the two create shorter wait times for truckers who would otherwise be idling, leaving their exhaust pipes to spew fumes.

But even as this year brought dramatic reductions of pollutants across the board there, carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change, actually has increased since 2010.

‘Challenge moving forward’

“That will be the biggest challenge moving forward,” Cannon said.

In 2015, both ports saw spikes in their pollution levels after a labor crisis backed up ships and left trucks idling.

The latest data from 2016 comes as officials at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports prepare to update a more than decade-old clean air plan.

Mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach have said they want to see the port complex become a zero-emission zone by 2035, but the ports estimate it will cost as much as $14 billion to achieve that.

Much of those funds would be used to replace diesel-guzzling big rigs and dock equipment.

Last year at the Port of Los Angeles, 95 percent of all the trucks entering the docks were fueled by diesel. And about two-thirds of all vehicles used to handle cargo along the terminals ran on the fuel, which emits some of the most unhealthy pollutants. Only about 7 percent of the equipment is electric run, with zero emissions.

Environmentalists want electric

Environmentalists want to see nothing but electric vehicles used along the docks.

“This report continues to highlight the severity of air pollution coming from ports,” said Adrian Martinez, a lawyer at Earthjustice, a pro-environmental group. “When you look at how many of the vehicles run on combustible fuels, it really demonstrates the need to fulfill the mayors’ vision of getting true zero-emission.”

John McLaurin, head of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a group representing marine terminal operators and shipping lines, sees it another way.

He called the clean air plan’s estimate “mind-boggling” and pointed to the strides made this year as evidence that reductions in pollution can be made without such a heavy investment.

“Reductions will continue in the future, but additional air quality improvements must balance cost with effectiveness to preserve the 1-in-9 jobs in the Southern California area that are dependent on a competitive port,” he said.

Online edition.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reduced pollution while moving more cargo last year, according to new reports released this week.

The annual pollution scorecard shows the ports continue to make steady progress in clearing up the air around the nation’s busiest seaport and largest stationary polluter in the region, but it’s proving harder to make significant cuts in some areas.

Oct 18, 2017

Meet the V8070: New electric truck doesn’t pollute, a first of many from Playa Vista company

Online edition.

It may look like a truck but it doesn’t pollute like a truck.

Built by Chanje Energy Inc., the medium-duty, all-electric truck unveiled Wednesday at a hangar at Fullerton Airport can haul 6,000 pounds of cargo and travel 100 miles on a single charge with zero tailpipe emissions.

It’s the first battery-electric truck built from the ground up aimed at the so-called “last mile” route of commercial delivery. The company is targeting the explosion of online shopping that has driven up delivery by Fed-Ex, UPS, Amazon and others.

“If we are successful deploying this asset, we will change the energy of a community, ultimately of the world, by taking tailpipes out of the urban market where it matters most,” said Bryan Hansel, CEO of Chanje.

Headquartered in Playa Vista, Chanje is only 2-1/12 years old but already has moved beyond the prototype stage. The V8070, an oversized van with an electric drive train powered by 70 kilowatts of batteries capable of 198 horsepower per kW is available for sale today.

The company’s factory in Han Jiao, China, can produce 100,000 units a year, he said. Chanje will open at least one or more assembly plants in the United States, each capable of 10,000 trucks per year, he said.

“If you need 1,000 trucks, let’s sit down and have a chat,” he said during an interview before the event. Hansel, who said he’s not ruling out Southern California sites, said by early next year new trucks will be rolling off the assembly lines.

Chanje received a boost from Ryder, a national commercial trucking company that rents trucks and vans to commercial users such as food and beverage companies, dry cleaners and the like, by placing an order. But the company would not reveal how many trucks it has purchased.

In addition, Ryder has partnered with Chanje to help sell the trucks and provide maintenance and charging stations at its facilities across the U.S.

Hansel said the total cost over five to seven years is the same as a diesel or gasoline powered truck. The electric Chanje truck also has fewer moving parts, reducing maintenance costs by 70 percent, according to the company.

“Pricing has not been announced yet,” said Stacy Morris, Chanje spokeswoman in an email.

All the medium-sized trucks are responsible for 18 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation nationwide. Besides cutting GHGs that add to climate change, Ryder says electric delivery trucks will improve air quality in urban areas by reducing smog-forming emissions.

“There is no such vehicle around like it,” began Chris Nordh, director of global field products for Ryder. “This vehicle has the durability of a van, a cargo capacity of a box truck and the emissions profile of a bicycle,” he said Wednesday.

More than 40 percent of containerized goods imported from Asia flow through the twin ports of LA and Long Beach. And the amount of cargo is expected to double by 2035, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The ports are working on electrifying the movement of containers, but most of the pollution comes from diesel trucks moving out from the ports to points east.

Heavy-duty trucks are the No. 1 source of all smog-forming emissions in Southern California. The state’s 1 million diesel trucks account for 2.3 percent of the vehicles on the road – 56 percent of the smog-forming nitrogen oxides from motor vehicles and 66 percent of the diesel soot.

Southern California is classified by the federal government as an “extreme non-attainment area” for ozone pollution, a caustic gas that causes premature lung aging, asthma and other breathing issues after longer exposures, wheezing and shortness of breath after acute exposures. The region has until 2037 to clean up ozone pollution, though an official deadline hasn’t been set, according to the AQMD.

Ozone, a major component of LA smog, is formed in the atmosphere when nitrogen oxides (NOx) from trucks, cars and other combustion sources combine with volatile organic compounds from coatings and factories and are cooked by sunlight in the lower atmosphere.

Heavy-duty trucks account for 33 percent of all NOx pollution in California. The other pollutant from diesel-powered trucks is particulates. In Southern California, the number of particulate matter-related premature deaths from all sources stands at 7,300 per year, adding up to about $65 billion in costs, according to health experts.

This year, Southern California experienced 132 days above the 8-hour ozone standard, up from last year, according to the AQMD.

Online edition.

It may look like a truck but it doesn’t pollute like a truck.

Built by Chanje Energy Inc., the medium-duty, all-electric truck unveiled Wednesday at a hangar at Fullerton Airport can haul 6,000 pounds of cargo and travel 100 miles on a single charge with zero tailpipe emissions.

It’s the first battery-electric truck built from the ground up aimed at the so-called “last mile” route of commercial delivery. The company is targeting the explosion of online shopping that has driven up delivery by Fed-Ex, UPS, Amazon and others.

Feb 28, 2018

Metro to decide on 710 Freeway widening in Long Beach

Online edition.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to upgrade the heavily-congested 710 Freeway from Long Beach to East Los Angeles may take a significant step forward Wednesday, but with the key caveat that any widening of the freeway would not be allowed until after a decade or so’s worth of other improvements are accomplished.

Officials asking for the delay, who include Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, three Los Angeles County supervisors and officials representing Glendale and Inglewood, want to reduce or eliminate any construction activities that may force out people living near the freeway’s path.

Those officials sit on the 14-member board that sets policy for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as Metro. Their plan, however, may not be enough to sway the minds of people who are opposed to the freeway project in its proposed form.

“We want a project, when it’s approved, that does not displace homes and businesses,” said Jorge Rivera of Long Beach Residents Empowered, among the local groups advocating for project changes.

Opponents also want zero-emission vehicle mandates and a local hiring program, he said.

The project’s revised environmental impact report shows construction may displace nearly 440 people and about 160 businesses.

The Metro board will meet Thursday morning to decide whether to support future environmental review of prospective 710 Freeway improvements around a set of proposals known as “Alternative 5C.” Those plans, estimated to cost $6 billion, involve proposed construction truck bypass lanes near the 710’s junction with the 405 Freeway in Long Beach, widening of the freeway in Long Beach and at points north, as well as other work including improvements to on- and off-ramps.

The new idea favored by several Metro board members would, assuming ultimate approval of Alternative 5C, clear the way for an “early action program” with improvements to on- and off-ramps and other upgrades along the lines of bicycle lanes, street improvements and work that may benefit pedestrians.

On the other hand, Metro would not be able to press forward with any widening of the 710 freeway pending completion of the early action program, additional environmental analysis and attempts to reduce the number of people who may be displaced if the 710 Freeway is widened to take up more space. Metro’s board would be required to take a future vote to approve any work conducted after the early action program’s tasks are accomplished.

The added requests also call for union-friendly project labor agreements to accompany early action projects.

Michael Kapp, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Hilda Solis said the plan is an attempt to balance a need to improve unsustainable conditions on the 710 with public demands. Accomplishing the early action program may require 10 to 15 years of work before any widening can take place.

In addition to the proposal to delay of any widening of the 710 Freeway, Metro board members are also scheduled consider a proposal from Supervisor and Metro board member Janice Hahn to increase project funding for supporting zero-emissions technology from $100 million to $200 million. If approved, that money could be used for such expenditures as subsidies for electric trucks or installing equipment within the freeway itself to recharge electric vehicles in motion.

Thursday’s decision will not be final. It’s up to Caltrans leadership to certify the final environmental impact report necessary for freeway work to proceed.

Metro’s board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. at One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles.

Online edition.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to upgrade the heavily-congested 710 Freeway from Long Beach to East Los Angeles may take a significant step forward Wednesday, but with the key caveat that any widening of the freeway would not be allowed until after a decade or so’s worth of other improvements are accomplished.

Mar 12, 2018

Print Metro board will vote on expanding the 710 Wider 710 would displace hundreds

Online Edition

For decades, the 710 Freeway has been the commercial spine of Southern California, funneling the trucks carrying thousands of tons of furniture, clothes, televisions and other goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the region’s sprawling network of freeways and warehouses.

But the steady stream of freight traffic on the 710, driven by the country’s growing appetite for imported goods and two-day shipping, has taken its toll. The pavement is cracked, bottlenecks are common, and the share of trucks on the freeway is three times higher than engineers in the 1960s expected.

Transportation officials have clashed for decades with local and environmental advocates over how to untangle traffic and speed the movement of goods along the 710 without further harming the surrounding neighborhoods that are in what’s known as “the diesel death zone.”

After all that debate, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a chance this week to make a decision. At a downtown board meeting Thursday, the agency’s directors will consider two alternatives to widen the 710, both of which would require evicting hundreds of residents and business owners to make room for new freeway lanes.

Along a corridor that generates so much commerce and pollution, any decision will be controversial.

Attempting to stave off that backlash, a coalition of Metro directors says it will propose a compromise that would greenlight some improvements, including longer ramps and new interchanges, but delay a decision on the widening.

Before any major construction could begin, Caltrans and Metro need to close a shortfall of at least $5 billion. Choosing an alternative will help the agencies identify more state and federal funding, officials said.

Both alternatives call for lanes reserved for zero-emission or low-emission trucks. The route, if built, would represent the first leg of a green freight network, possibly including tolls, that planners have envisioned for more than two decades.

The $6-billion alternative backed by Metro staff members would add a lane for zero-emission trucks between Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach and the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles, and lanes that would allow truckers to bypass traffic backups near the 405 Freeway. The plan would update ramps at 24 streets and rebuild interchanges with the 91, 5 and 405 freeways.

The $10-billion alternative calls for four elevated truck-only lanes parallel to the 710, in addition to similar interchange and ramp improvements.

The amendment introduced this week would require Metro and Caltrans to finish interchange, intersection and ramp improvements along the 710 before seeking approval of the wider route. Depending on funding and construction progress, that could be at least a decade away.

The proposal would also require Metro to further reduce or eliminate the planned displacement of up to 560 residents and business owners along the corridor. More than 90% of the 710 changes can be completed in the existing right-of-way without using eminent domain, the directors said.

The motion would provide grants and other financial incentives for trucking companies to adopt zero-emission engines. It would also urge the use of more rail, particularly “on-dock rail,” which allows the ports to transfer cargo directly from ships to trains. The process can eliminate 750 truck trips for each full train, port estimates show.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and other officials have urged a financial model that would push shipping companies toward rail — particularly the nearby Alameda Corridor, a rail expressway from the ports to rail yards near downtown that has unused cargo capacity.

“If we’re going to do financial incentives as it relates to zero emissions, we need to look at financial incentives for rail,” Barger said at a recent Metro meeting.

But loading cargo onto trains, and paying the per-container fee on the Ala-meda Corridor, makes financial sense only for companies that are sending their goods to another state, said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency.

Trains do not head north up the corridor until they’re fully loaded, a process that can take hours.

About 37% of cargo entering the ports stays in Southern California, either to be consumed here, or sent to local warehouses to be unpacked, sorted, repacked and sent out on trucks. As more customers expect two-day delivery for online purchases, that form of delivery will only become more dominant, he said.

“For short distances, trucks are the cheapest and the most economic mode there is,” Ikhrata said. “To expect Alameda Corridor to do more than it’s doing now is not going to work.”

Highway officials began to study the problems of the 710 more than two decades ago. In 2003, as cities along the route asked for a fix to their traffic problems, and as officials studied options, advocates learned that up to 1,000 homes and businesses could be demolished to make way for extra freeway lanes.

The resulting outcry put the project on pause — but only temporarily.

The idea returned several years later, only to be stymied by a funding shortfall and the worst economic recession since World War II. The project eventually secured enough funding for environmental reviews, guaranteed through two half-cent sales taxes that Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008 and 2016.

Caltrans and Metro officials eventually reduced by half the number of people who would lose their homes and businesses. They now estimate that the $6-billion project would displace 436 people and the $10-billion option would displace 484 people.

“When I saw those numbers, I thought, ‘Oh no, not this again,’ ” said Alan Hose, a Long Beach resident who served on a 710 advisory committee in 2004. The group of concerned residents, environmentalists and others had pushed Caltrans and Metro to design the freeway without displacing anyone. Officials say that is impossible.

Still, the number of people who would be forced to move remains a sticking point on the project. Immigrants living in the country illegally would not be eligible for federal relocation benefits, advocates said.

At a recent Metro meeting, Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro director Mike Bonin described the figures as “scary high.” Evictions could permanently alter the rhythm of life for communities near the freeway, he said, as they did for neighborhoods near Los Angeles International Airport.

“I can still see people talking about the homes taken away to accommodate LAX expansion decades ago,” Bonin said. “Folks still talk about the folks who lost their homes in Chavez Ravine. It haunts and scars an area for a long time.”

Advocates for the southern half of the 710 have said that they feel they’ve been treated differently from the preservation and environmental advocates who battled a proposed 4.5-mile extension of the northern half of the 710.

The northern project would have redirected the hundreds of trucks that spill onto surface streets in Alhambra at the freeway’s abrupt ending, but would have required building through, or tunneling under, hundreds of single-family homes in El Sereno, Pasadena and South Pasadena.

The ugly, decades-long fight ended last year when Metro dropped its support for the project, agreed not to fund any major construction on it, and redirected the funds to local street improvements.

“This is not the kind of response that happened when the folks up in South Pasadena had questions about freeway development — a radically different neighborhood,” said Long Beach resident Leanne Noble at a Metro meeting last month. “Our neighborhoods also have the right to stability and to health.”

Online Edition

For decades, the 710 Freeway has been the commercial spine of Southern California, funneling the trucks carrying thousands of tons of furniture, clothes, televisions and other goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the region’s sprawling network of freeways and warehouses.

Mar 06, 2017

IBM, Maersk in Blockchain Tie-up for Shipping Industry

Online Edition

IBM and Danish transport company Maersk said they were working together to digitize, manage, and track shipping transactions using blockchain technology.

The technology, which powers the digital currency bitcoin, enables data sharing across a network of individual computers. It has gained worldwide popularity due to its usefulness in recording and keeping track of assets or transactions across all industries.

The blockchain solution being built by the two companies is expected to be made available to the ocean shipping industry later this year, according to a joint statement from International Business Machines Corp and the container unit of A.P. Moller-Maersk. It would help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitizing the supply chain process from end to end.

This will enhance transparency and make the sharing of information among trading partners more secure.

When adopted at scale, the solution based on the Linux Foundation's open source Hyperledger platform has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, the companies said.

"Working closely with Maersk for years, we've long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognized the opportunity for blockchain to provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem," said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry platforms, at IBM.

IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization product, the companies said.

The product is also designed to help reduce or eliminate fraud and errors and minimize the time products spend in the transit and shipping process.

For instance, Maersk found that in 2014, just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organizations, including more than 200 different communications among them.

The new blockchain solution would enable the real-time exchange of original supply chain transactions and documents through a digital infrastructure that connects the participants within the network, according to IBM and Maersk.

Online Edition

IBM and Danish transport company Maersk said they were working together to digitize, manage, and track shipping transactions using blockchain technology.

The technology, which powers the digital currency bitcoin, enables data sharing across a network of individual computers. It has gained worldwide popularity due to its usefulness in recording and keeping track of assets or transactions across all industries.

Mar 07, 2018

Self-driving trucks are on the road in Arizona - Uber has used them for deliveries since Nov

Printed edition

San Francisco – Uber has been sending self-driving trucks on delivery runs across Arizona since November, the first step in what promises to be a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers.

After testing its technology earlier in 2017, Uber began contracting with trucking companies to use its own autonomous Volvo big rigs to take over loads as they traverse the state, it disclosed.

In Uber’s current program, a trucker meets the self-driving truck at the Arizona state border, which then takes the load across the state before handing it off to second conventional trucker for the short-haul trip. During the autonomous trip, an Uber employee rides in driver seat of the autonomous truck to monitor – but not to drive.

If one day both the technology and regulations play out in favor of self-driving trucks, two scenarios emerge.

The first would find self-driving trucks handling long-haul highway legs with no one at the wheel as they meet up with conventional truckers, who then drive the deliveries into city centers. The other possibility is Uber could sell its technology to trucking owner-operators, who then use it to sleep while the truck handles the bulk of long distance driving.

Truckers make their money only when their rigs are on the road. They are also limited by law in terms of how much time they can spend behind the wheel, something a self-driving truck could impact positively. It could also introduce more round-trip hauls that find driver back home at the end of the day’s journey.

“The big step for us recently is that we can plan to haul goods in both directions, using Uber Freight to coordinate load pickups and drop-offs with local truckers,” said Alden Woodrow, who leads Uber’s self-driving truck effort. “Keeping trucking local allows these drivers to make money while staying closer to home.”

Uber Freight, which launched last May, is an app that matches shippers with loads using technology drawn from Uber’s ride-hailing app. Typically such trucking logistics have been coordinated through phone calls and emails.

The San Francisco-based company isn’t alone in its pursuit of self-driving truck technology, with start-ups such as Embark joining companies such as Tesla and its new Tesla semi to carve out a slice of a $700 billion industry that moves 70% of domestic freight, according to the American Trucking Association.

Despite the push, the technology behind self-driving trucks remains in its infancy, with hurdles that include government regulations and trucker buy-in. a truck that makes the long hauls between exits, allowing a driver to sleep in the cab, could increase their profit. But they’d have to trust the technology, as well as fork over what promises to be a considerable investment to make their cabs autonomous.

Printed edition

San Francisco – Uber has been sending self-driving trucks on delivery runs across Arizona since November, the first step in what promises to be a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers.

After testing its technology earlier in 2017, Uber began contracting with trucking companies to use its own autonomous Volvo big rigs to take over loads as they traverse the state, it disclosed.

Feb 22, 2018

Chicago intermodal rail delays ‘unprecedented’ since January

Online edition.

Major delays are plaguing shippers and logistics providers in Chicago because of a perfect storm of winter weather, intermodal rail yards, chassis shortages, and tighter truck capacity exacerbated by the electronics logging device (ELD) mandate.

Although not limited to Chicago, the top US freight hub has been cited for the most severe gridlock and so much drayage that some motor carriers will not accept new customers until April.

Multiple trucking executives told JOC.com that they are charging accessorial fees on some hauls and imposing $75 to $150 detention penalties after one hour sitting at an intermodal rail yard.

“This is most prolonged and sustained period of tightness in Chicago that I’ve ever seen, it’s unprecedented. But I think it may be the new normal.” Said Phil Shook, director of intermodal at C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.

“It is about as bad as we’ve ever seen it historically, outside of weather emergencies like blizzards,” said Clint Dvorak, managing director, Global North America at MIQ Logistics, which recently issued an alert to shippers about the delays.

Jason Hilsenbeck, president of Drayage.com, said that clicks on his website from Chicago metropolitan area have surged since the beginning of the year. Over the last 60 days, his intermodal directory website generated more than 90,000 clicks. Per day, the average hovers between 2,000 and 3,000, indicating a significant interest to search his online directory of drayage providers serving Chicago.

“When we had the labor problems in Los Angeles and Long Beach a few years ago, we started to hit 70,000 or 80,000 clicks over 60 days, but I’ve seen this in Chicago after blizzards,” Hilsenbeck said.

Trucking and logistics executives have expressed frustration at intermodal rail yard operations since the beginning of the year, worried the slowdown will further alienate the driver pool.

Canadian National Railway in Harvey, Illinois, and Union Pacific Railroad’s four Chicago-area terminals, to a lesser extent, were identified as having multi-hour turn times in some cases, according to the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement, CN blamed the delays on the weather, driver shortages, and ELDs.

“We continue to work with our supply chain partners to manage traffic flows and alleviate the delays. We are working to secure more driver power in the Chicago area to increase terminal fluidity and have encouraged carters to schedule appointments at off hours such as nights and weekends,” the railway wrote.

UP said a broken wheel on a train temporarily caused bottlenecks through Chicago but the situation has since been resolved.

These delays are happening as truckers contemplate whether to leave the industry ahead of the hard enforcement date of ELDs on April 1. Owner-operators fed up with the Chicago dray market may consider this the right time for a change.

“I would say 50 percent of the drivers or more are considering flipping to [over-the-road] to avoid the ramps. Owner-operators just get fed up and no longer want to do rail freight because of the time wasted at ramps. It’s a vicious circle,” said Susan Keldani, vice president of On Track Transportation in Illinois.

“You spend three hours getting the chassis and the container and when you terminate it’s another two hours. It’s leaving very little time for drivers,” added Kevin Lhotak, president of Reliable Transportation.

That is when there are even chassis available to take the container, which is not a certainty right now.

Tracy Davis, president of Acme Transportation Company, said truckers often arrive at rail yards only to discover no available chassis or a small number of defective units.

“There may be 10 chassis one day but when you go to pick it up and the person says it’s reserved or the chassis are red-tagged and cannot go out on the road,” Davis said.

Mediterranean Shipping Co. sent a warning notice in early February to customers urging customers to promptly return equipment to alleviate the shortage.

“If there is not a drastic decrease in long dwelling equipment on the street in the coming days, we will have no choice but to enforce a ‘No Chassis in, No Chassis out’ policy at the rails and CYs [container yards] in order to release any more equipment for loading,” the notice said.

Consolidated Chassis Management pegged the utilization rate at 63 percent for the Chicago-Ohio Valley Consolidated Chassis Pool, including an ample supply near the CN Harvey terminal.

TRAC Intermodal and Direct ChassisLink Inc. were not available for comment.

Online edition.

Major delays are plaguing shippers and logistics providers in Chicago because of a perfect storm of winter weather, intermodal rail yards, chassis shortages, and tighter truck capacity exacerbated by the electronics logging device (ELD) mandate.

Although not limited to Chicago, the top US freight hub has been cited for the most severe gridlock and so much drayage that some motor carriers will not accept new customers until April.