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Jan 05, 2018

Road-weary truckers risk lives on the job

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Companies often force their drivers to work shifts with little or no sleeep.

Every day, port trucking companies around Los Angeles put hundreds of impaired drivers on the road, pushing them to work with little or no sleep in violation of federal safety regulaions, a USA Today network investigaion found.

They dispatch truckers for shifts that last up to 20 hours a day , six days a week, sometimes with tragic results.

IN August 2013, a Container Intermodal Transport Trucker, who said in depositions that he often broke fatigue laws, barreled into stopped traffic at 55 mph. A teenager was killed, and seven people were sent to the hospital.

Seven months later, a PAcific 9 Transportation driver had just finished his 45th hour on the clock in three days when re ran over and killed a woman crossing the street.

A Gold Point Transportation truck was moving containers for 15 hours one day in May 2013 when it crashed in Long Beach, injuring four people.

The trucking industry has always had drivers who work reckless amounts of overtime.

But the USA TODAY Network investigation shows for the first time that fatigued truckers are a near-constant threat on the roads around America’s busiest ports.

To identify port trucking companies that put their drivers and the public at risk, reporters retraced the movement of thousands of Los Angeles-area trucks over four years using time stamps generated each time a driver passes through a port gate.

Reporters then calculated how long each truck had operated and compared the results to federal crash data from 2013 to 2016.

The analysis found that, on average, trucks serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operated without the required break 470 times a day.

Those trucks were involved in at least 189 crashes within a day of an extended period on the clock. Federal records do not indicate who was at fault.

With some exceptions, federal rules say commercial truckers must take a 10-hour break every 14 hours.

The data alone don’t prove that a trucker was driving impaired. But regulators and experts said the analysis provides strong evidence of a problem they know to be pervasive but difficult to quantify.

"There's enough there to warrant further investigation," said Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, an association of industry regulators dedicated to improving safety.

As the USA TODAY Network first reported in June, California port truckers have been forced to work long days against their will.

Over the past decade, many companies pushed drivers into debt by requiring them to buy trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs.

Drivers found themselves trapped in jobs that paid them pennies per hour after expenses. If they complained or refused to work past the legal limit, they could be fired and lose their truck along with thousands they paid toward its purchase.

Trucking company executives contacted by USA TODAY Network denied allowing their drivers to violate fatigue rules. Some noted that two drivers sometimes share one truck, a practice that could account for long stints of activity.

“We believe your analysis of driver gate data is perhaps a bit misplaced,” said Kevin Dukesherer, president of Progressive Transportation Services.

Dukesherer did not say how many of his trucks were driven by multiple drivers or address specific instances of overtime driving revealed in the data.

Drivers say sharing a truck is rare because many companies prohibit it. Far more common, they say, are truckers who feel compelled to work long hours.

Jose Juan Rodriguez, who drove for Morgan Southern for five years, said he sometimes worked 16-hour shifts for days at a time, a claim the company denied. He kept a bucket of ice water by his seat to splash on his face when he felt himself nodding off.

More than once, he said, he found himself hallucinating, a side effect of extreme sleep deprivation.

“There are some days when you can’t think right anymore,” he said. “You can’t tell if you’re driving or not. You just have to continue working.”

Caught at the gate

Recognizing a potential public health threat, the federal government first began limiting commercial truckers’ driving hours in 1938, holding them to 60 hours a week.

Decades of study led to more stringent rules as researchers concluded sleep-deprived drivers become exponentially more hazardous the longer they spend on the road.

Regulations dictate how long drivers can be on duty each day, how long they can actually drive and how many hours they must take off in between.

Even so, the tools used to flag truckers who stay on the road too long haven’t changed much.

Police and Department of Transportation inspectors still rely heavily on paper logs maintained by the drivers themselves.

The first federal mandate to install electronic log machines in commercial trucks takes effect in late December, although questions remain about how quickly companies will comply.

In the absence of an accurate tracking system, the USA TODAY Network used publicly available records to build a database noting each time a truck entered or exited the ports of Long Beach or Los Angeles. The data offer a rough sketch of how thousands of trucks operated each day from 2013 through 2016.

It shows 580,000 instances where trucks spent at least 14 hours on the road without a 10-hour break. Those would be violations if a truck was operated by just one driver.

The activity amounts to about 8.3 percent of the total traffic from the ports, but represents a substantial amount of time on the road.

Assuming drivers picked up a new load each time they went in and out of a gate, those trucks moved 1.6 million shipping containers along Los Angeles-area highways over four years.

Reporters shared their results and methodology with researchers who have been studying commercial trucking safety for years at Michigan State University.

Professor Yemisi A. Bolumole said the analysis makes clear that safety laws have not been enforceable because “we are relying on carrier or driver honesty.”

At the request of the USA TODAY Network, Bolumole’s fellow researcher, Jason Miller, reviewed federal Department of Transportation data on safety and maintenance citations from a sample of large trucking companies across the country.

He found that port trucking is consistently one of the most dangerous sectors in the industry. Its drivers are almost 50 percent more likely to break hours-of-service rules than the industry average.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Miller said.

The office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called for investigations into companies that create a public health threat.

“Federal hours of service laws exist for the safety of drivers and all of us,” press secretary Alexander Comisar said. “Violations are unacceptable and where they may have occurred they need to be promptly investigated.”

Law enforcement officials and experts say companies are legally responsible for knowing the hours their workers drive.

It can be a federal crime if managers routinely encourage or pressure truckers to stay on the road past the limit.

“Companies that force exhausted truck drivers to stay behind the wheel are gambling with the lives of everyone on the road,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.

Gambling with lives

In the competitive, cut-throat world of container delivery, many companies are willing to risk using fatigued drivers, the USA TODAY Network found.

Gate entry data show that nearly 900 port trucking companies dispatched at least one truck past the legal limit over four years.

Some of the busiest companies each had thousands of potential violations.

Lincoln Transportation trucks operated 5,200 times for more than 14 hours without a 10-hour stop. That is about 6 percent of company activity from 2013 to 2016.

Since 2014, Lincoln drivers have repeatedly accused the company in ongoing lawsuits of cheating them of fair pay.

One Lincoln trucker, Jose Arroyos, testified in a 2016 California Labor Commissioner case that he worked almost 15 hours a day, five days a week, for three years.

Lincoln Transportation did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In labor court, executives denied pressuring drivers to work against their will.

Lincoln trucks have been involved in 29 crashes that injured six people from 2013 to 2016, federal records show.

Freddy Uriarte, a father and grandfather who drove for Lincoln for four years, died in one of the accidents.

Police reports, interviews with family members and port records give a clear picture of Uriarte’s breakneck schedule leading up to his death.

On a Wednesday in March 2014, he went to bed at 5:30 a.m. after 26 hours of hauling containers over two days.

Four and a half hours later, Uriarte was awake, running errands before his commute back to work.

By 1 p.m. he was moving containers again. He drove without a break until nearly midnight, when he was on his way to the city of Chino with a load of black Rosetti handbags and totes.

Uriarte didn’t notice what everyone else on Riverside Freeway saw -- a broken down FedEx rig.

His truck slammed into the back of the trailer at full speed and collided with another car in the next lane.

Uriarte died in the hospital. The other motorist, Jeffrey Brunner, survived with a broken back and head injuries.

Since the crash, he’s had chronic back and neck pain. He said he’s struggled with constant feelings of loneliness, anxiety and persistent gaps in memory.

“It’s getting to the point where I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night,” Brunner said.

One of Uriarte’s sons, Carlos, once drove a truck at the harbor. He quit in 2008, when he found himself regularly working 8 am to 2 am.

“I left because I couldn’t take it anymore,” Carlos said.

Weak enforcement

Despite a groundswell of driver testimony about being pressured to work while dangerously fatigued, state and federal regulators have done little to curb the problem.

USA TODAY Network’s analysis of gate and inspection data shows that even when regulators check trucks that have been on duty 14 hours or more, they have cited them for breaking time rules less than 2 percent of the time.

Trucking law enforcement experts say that disparity shows the difficulty police have proving fatigue violations.

“There is a tremendous amount of hours violations that we do not catch,” said Mooney at the Safety Alliance.

Most of the busiest companies serving California’s ports received “satisfactory” safety ratings from the California Highway Patrol after their most recent inspection, state records show.

Reporters reviewed five years of state inspection reports from 10 companies with histories of labor complaints. Of the more than 300 violations inspectors uncovered, only one involved a driver’s hours on the road.

Pacific 9 illustrates how regulators fail to hold companies accountable, even when there is evidence of hours violations.

According to state records, the trucking company has not been cited for an hours violation in at least five years.

But 20 drivers have testified in recent labor court cases that they worked up to 19 hours a day and wouldn’t get paid until they falsified inspection reports. Pacific 9 has denied those allegations.

Gate data show that Pacific 9 drivers may have operated past the legal limit more than 8,000 times from 2013 to 2016. The company didn’t allow two drivers to share a truck, company executives said.

In January 2015 -- the same month California Highway Patrol officers visited to inspect the company -- trucks appeared to have been on the road without proper breaks at least 120 times, the data shows.

The officers’ visit that month was prompted by a tipster who alleged Pacific 9 had been dispatching drivers over the legal limit and then destroying the evidence.

But police couldn’t find proof and determined the allegations of excessive hours were unfounded.

Jon Wong Park is one of many Pacific 9 drivers who have talked openly about violating fatigue laws.

He said company dispatchers would tell him to change his logbooks if they showed hours that might get the company in trouble.

“Legally they’re supposed to stop me,” Park recalled in an interview with reporters. “But they kept giving me the jobs.”

By 11 p.m. on March 26, 2014, Park had worked more than 45 hours in less than three days, port data show.

As he pulled into desert city of Victorville, he didn’t see the woman crossing Hesperia Road in front of him until it was too late.

Bernice Williams went under the truck’s grill and died from head injuries.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's deputy who first investigated never checked Park’s logbooks the night of the accident because “he has no official training in commercial enforcement,” according to the department.

Park said he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel that night and denied feeling overly tired. He was convicted of misdemeanor hit and run, but faced no other charges.

Pacific 9 Chief Operating Officer Alan Ta conceded the company’s drivers “had issues with hours” until recently, when Pacific 9 stopped using independent contractors.

Today all company drivers are employees, which makes them easier to monitor, he said.

“I don’t think it was just us,” Ta said of his drivers’ hours violations. “It was multiple companies.”

“That’s the past. I’m not trying to change the past. What’s done is done.”

Print Edition

Companies often force their drivers to work shifts with little or no sleeep.

Every day, port trucking companies around Los Angeles put hundreds of impaired drivers on the road, pushing them to work with little or no sleep in violation of federal safety regulaions, a USA Today network investigaion found.

They dispatch truckers for shifts that last up to 20 hours a day , six days a week, sometimes with tragic results.

Dec 01, 2017

Single Ship Record at los Angeles

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Not one of the worlds largest container ships, Maersk Lines' 13,492-TEU Maersk Evora nevertheless set a new container handling record at the port of Los Angeles in October when it discharged 24,846 TEUs, a new world record for a single vessel port call. All of the boxes were handled at APM Terminals' Pie 400 between October 18 and October 22, with the 366-meter vessel then proceeding on to Yokohoma, Japan.

Print Edition

Not one of the worlds largest container ships, Maersk Lines' 13,492-TEU Maersk Evora nevertheless set a new container handling record at the port of Los Angeles in October when it discharged 24,846 TEUs, a new world record for a single vessel port call. All of the boxes were handled at APM Terminals' Pie 400 between October 18 and October 22, with the 366-meter vessel then proceeding on to Yokohoma, Japan.

Nov 27, 2017

Congress Targets Port Trucking

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Two bills supported by the Teamsters union to rein in the owner-operator model for harbor drayage and update federal trucking rules to empower ports to address truck pollution and congestion at their facilities represent another step in the union's decade-long attempt to organize harbor truck drivers.

The Port Drivers' Bill of Rights Act of 2017, introduced in October by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., "would create a task force to review the broken system and crack down on bad actors," Justice for Port Truck Drivers, a Teamsters-affiliated organization, stated in a release.

At the same time, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced the Clean Ports Act of 2017. The legislation would change federal trucking rules to require that ports address port pollution and congestion.

Together, the bills will help reduce pollution, mitigate traffic congestion, improve highway safety, and improve efficiency "without putting the burden on the backs of truck drivers," the union stated.

Spokesmen for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the California Trucking Association, which represent licensed motor carriers, said they are waiting to see the details in the legislation before commenting. Their mantra has been that the choice of operating under the employee-driver model or the owner-operator model should be left up to individual trucking companies. Independent contractors, known as owner-operators, by law, can't be organized by unions, whereas unions are free to attempt to organize employee drivers.

The current legislation appears to take another approach to using environmental initiatives to foster the organizing of harbor truck drivers. The initial Port of Los Angeles clean-truck program in 2006 contained an "employee-driver mandate." In order to operate in the port, drayage companies would have had to utilize 2007 or newer model trucks driven by employees. After years of litigation led by the ATA, the US Supreme Court struck down that mandate as a violation of federal interstate commerce law.

National legislation governing port pollution also could be problematic because ports' environmental needs vary widely based on the annual volume of containers handled, regional compliance wih the federal Clean Air Act, and the contribution of ports to overall pollution in each region. In some regions, for example, ports may contribute marginally to overall pollution. In Los Angeles-Long beach - the largest US port complex - truck, rail, and vessel traffic is a significant contributor to air pollution in Southern California.

The 2006 Los Angeles-Long Beach Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), which local officials said is the most comprehensive port program in the US, and possibly the world, has succeeded in reducing harmful diesel emissions by about 85 percent. Although some ports have looked to the CAAP for guidance in developing their own initiatives, pollution-reduction programs in other ports are tailored for local needs.

The trucking associations challenge the Teamsters' assertion that the current owner-operator model that dominates harbor drayage in the US is "broken". The Teamsters said owner-operators are over-worked, underpaid, and operate in unsafe working conditions. The California Trucking Assocation in 2015 commissioned a study that concluded independent contrator drivers in the state actually earn more on average than owner-operators.

 

 

Print Edition

Two bills supported by the Teamsters union to rein in the owner-operator model for harbor drayage and update federal trucking rules to empower ports to address truck pollution and congestion at their facilities represent another step in the union's decade-long attempt to organize harbor truck drivers.

Nov 27, 2017

Congress Targets Port Trucking

Print Edition

Two bills supported by the Teamsters union to rein in the owner-operator model for harbor drayage and update federal trucking rules to empower ports to address truck pollution and congestion at their facilities represent another step in the union's decade-long attempt to organize harbor truck drivers.

The Port Drivers' Bill of Rights Act of 2017, introduced in October by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., "would create a task force to review the broken system and crack down on bad actors," Justice for Port Truck Drivers, a Teamsters-affiliated organization, stated in a release.

At the same time, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced the Clean Ports Act of 2017. The legislation would change federal trucking rules to require that ports address port pollution and congestion.

Together, the bills will help reduce pollution, mitigate traffic congestion, improve highway safety, and improve efficiency "without putting the burden on the backs of truck drivers," the union stated.

Spokesmen for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the California Trucking Association, which represent licensed motor carriers, said they are waiting to see the details in the legislation before commenting. Their mantra has been that the choice of operating under the employee-driver model or the owner-operator model should be left up to individual trucking companies. Independent contractors, known as owner-operators, by law, can't be organized by unions, whereas unions are free to attempt to organize employee drivers.

The current legislation appears to take another approach to using environmental initiatives to foster the organizing of harbor truck drivers. The initial Port of Los Angeles clean-truck program in 2006 contained an "employee-driver mandate." In order to operate in the port, drayage companies would have had to utilize 2007 or newer model trucks driven by employees. After years of litigation led by the ATA, the US Supreme Court struck down that mandate as a violation of federal interstate commerce law.

National legislation governing port pollution also could be problematic because ports' environmental needs vary widely based on the annual volume of containers handled, regional compliance wih the federal Clean Air Act, and the contribution of ports to overall pollution in each region. In some regions, for example, ports may contribute marginally to overall pollution. In Los Angeles-Long beach - the largest US port complex - truck, rail, and vessel traffic is a significant contributor to air pollution in Southern California.

The 2006 Los Angeles-Long Beach Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), which local officials said is the most comprehensive port program in the US, and possibly the world, has succeeded in reducing harmful diesel emissions by about 85 percent. Although some ports have looked to the CAAP for guidance in developing their own initiatives, pollution-reduction programs in other ports are tailored for local needs.

The trucking associations challenge the Teamsters' assertion that the current owner-operator model that dominates harbor drayage in the US is "broken". The Teamsters said owner-operators are over-worked, underpaid, and operate in unsafe working conditions. The California Trucking Assocation in 2015 commissioned a study that concluded independent contrator drivers in the state actually earn more on average than owner-operators.

 

 

Print Edition

Two bills supported by the Teamsters union to rein in the owner-operator model for harbor drayage and update federal trucking rules to empower ports to address truck pollution and congestion at their facilities represent another step in the union's decade-long attempt to organize harbor truck drivers.

Nov 27, 2017

Baltimore Double-Track Tunnel Effort Collapses

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A highly anticipated project to raise the 121-year-old Howard Street Tunnel, enabling CSX Transportation to run double-stack trains, collapsed in early November after the railroad said it would no longer provide about one-third of the $425 million project budget. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) informed the federal government that it wuold no longer be applying for the funds for the project - which port officials have said is key to the port's future expansion - because CSX had informed the state "they will not be moving forward with the project." CSX's withdrawal comes as the railroad is discontinuing hundreds of domestic intermodal services and destination pairs in an overhail to build cargo density. The intermodal network overhaul is part of a broad sweep of changes under the leadership of CSX CEO E, Hunter Harrison, which calls a "precision railroading" strategy. The railroad's decision not to raise the Howard Street Tunnel appeared to leave Maryland transportation authorities with no room to maneuver. The railroad had agreed to contribute $125 million to the project. Currently, westbound trains can only be single-stack because of the height limitations of the 1.7-mile long tunnel. To change that, the port planned to elevate some parts of the tunnel to lower others, enabling double-stack trains to pass through. The port had hoped that the ability to double-stack providing the railroad with better economies of scale, would enable CSX to offer more competitive rates.

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Sep 18, 2017

Truck Rental Woes - Short term leasing of trucks to grow more complex and pricey with ELD mandate

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Thousands of businesses that rent trucks on a short-term basis, whether for days or weeks, should expect higher costs and complexity when the looming electronic logging mandate becomes law on Dec. 18. The truck rental and leasing industry wants federal regulators to give businesses ranging from bakeries and beverage distributors to small private fleets short-term ELD relief when they rent trucks to deal with short-term seasonal surges in demand.

"When you look at companies that employe 20 people or less, that's a huge sector of this market," said Richard Mohr, rental vice president and global product manager at Ryder System, a truck rental and leasing company. "Look at the companies delivering ice to local stores, fireworks companies setting up stalls near malls in July. They rely on rental vehicles to meet peak season or surge demand. For them, the ELD mandate will add a whole new level of complexity."

These are not for-hire trucking companies, whether owner-operators or truckload giants, engaged in the business of transportation, Mohr said. In writing the ELD regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concentrated on how it would affect for-hire trucking businesses, but "didn't take into consideration some of the impact on smaller businesses, the local business that doesn't have transportation as its primary business," he said.

Many of those businesses are shippers who will have to rethink how they use rental trucks to augment their private fleets, and when they turn to a for-hire carrier for a dedicated trucking solution. Dedicated trucking operators, including Ryder System, could see an increase in demand for "pop-up" dedicated fleets operating under very short-term contracts. "I can't tell you how many customers I'm talking to about how to meet their surge need," Mohr said.

This impact of ELDs on small business shippers and private fleets is another example of the sweeping effect the electronic logging mandate may have on US businesses and domestic and international supply chains, starting with a potential spike in port drayage costs. Truckload carriers and owner-operators may feel the brunt of the regulatory impact, but the advent of the ELD era could affect supply chain strategies and how freight is moved far beyond trucking.

As the Dec. 18 deadline nears, many smaller trucking companies - as well as businesses renting trucks - reportedly are far from ready to switch from paper logbooks to ELDs. The phased-in enforcement schedule announced Aug. 28 by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance should give truckers, shippers, and brokers more breathing room.

A variety of groups are still are seeking an outright delay of the regulation or exemptions for specific types of operations, such as drivers of rental trucks. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports a bill that would delay the rule for two years.

The Truck Rental and Leasing Association, of which Ryder is a member, in March petitioned the FMCSA for a five year exemption from ELD requirements for drivers of commercial vehicles rented for 30 days or less. Those drivers would fulfill hours-of-service record keeping requirements using paper logs. The petition, published by the FMCSA in the March 22 Federal Register, is still open, pending a decision. TRALA's petition drew nearly 300 comments.

In its comments, the American Trucking ASsociations noted for-hire carriers also rent trucks to handle freight surges and when trucks need repairs. "Providing a limited exception for CMV rentals of 30 or fewer days will help prevent disruptions to the US supply chain by allowing motor carriers to retain the flexibility they need to adapt when CMVs break down or when increasing freight demand creates a short-term need for additional capacity," the ATA said.

TRALA sees several problems and pitfalls in the ELD mandate for smaller companies renting trucks. First, if the rental truck itself has no ELD installed, the renter would have to purchase and install one. Most service contracts sold with devices run for a year, so a business could be stuck with an annual bill for an ELD it would use less than 30 days. And if the rental truck comes with an ELD installed, that device may not interoperable with ELDs already used by the renter.

"considering the significant number of different device platforms and subscription options, it is highly unlikely that the driver's device would be able to communicate properly with the rental company's telematics platform," TRALA said in its petition. "Data cannot be transferred from the rental vehicle to the customer's system unless both ELDs are on the same platform." The FMCSA did not require ELDs to be interoperable, TRALA noted, because of cost and complexity.

J&M Displays, an Iowa-based fireowrks display company, provides an example of how complex the ELD requirement could be for its business. "Currently, we employ 30 full-time employees, however, during the peak Fourth of July season, we employ over 1,340 employees," John Whitaker, DOT compliance manager for J&M, said in comments submitted to the FMCSA. J&M rents about 250 small trucks and vans for 20 days or less during the Fourh of July season.

"Allowing our drivers who must operate short-term rental trucks to continue to utilize RODS (record of duty status logbooks) would eliminate a significant burden the ELD mandate places on our small business," Whitaker said. "During the peak holiday season, we typically have multiple drivers which operate the same vehicle. These drivers would each need their own ELD subscription, which would be extremely costly and could cause a loss of business."

Rental trucks aren't used just to handle seasonal surges, though. Carriers of all types rent vehicles when their owned or leased equipment breaks down. An ELD that's hardwired into the truck can't simply be moved to another vehicle during repairs - atleast not practically or easily, said Ricahrd Scott, vice president of transportation at Kenco Logistics. "Our current ELD solution is not portable," he said. "I'm looking to change to a portable solution."

TRALA isn't asking the FMCSA to exempt rental truck drivers from ELD requirements in perpetuity, but for five years. By that time, Mohr said, many of the interoperability issues may have been resolved by ELD makers, truck rental companies, and the major truck manufacturers. "I think the technology will get there, but its not there yet," Mohr said. Meanwhile, small businesses will come to companies such as Ryder for solutions.

"We support the exemotion not because the ELD mandate would hurt our business - we actually believe that the mandate will help our business, especially on the Ryder Dedicated Transportation segment," Mohr said. "We support the exemption that TRALA is seeking because it provides temporary relief for an issue that the FMCSA inadvertently did not address in the mandate."

Overall, Mohr thinks the ELD mandate will help Ryder's business, "especially the dedicated side," he said. "No customer wakes up and says, 'I really want a truck in my business.' If they can find a way to go dedicated, nine out of 10 times they will. if anything, They'll get rid of a truck and just rent. There's going to be a demand, and there needs to be a sollution."

 

Print Edition

Thousands of businesses that rent trucks on a short-term basis, whether for days or weeks, should expect higher costs and complexity when the looming electronic logging mandate becomes law on Dec. 18. The truck rental and leasing industry wants federal regulators to give businesses ranging from bakeries and beverage distributors to small private fleets short-term ELD relief when they rent trucks to deal with short-term seasonal surges in demand.

Sep 18, 2017

Smoothing Cargo Flow - A new US-Mexican rail cargo processing facility will speed clearance of trains at Laredo

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AS US, Mexican, and Canadian negotiators clash over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, trucking companies, railroads, and logistics providers are expanding facilities in Laredo, Texas to combat congestion, equipment imbalances, and expedite shipments and vehicles at the border. The goal is to keep Laredo from becoming a cross-border chokepoint, rather than a gateway.

US and Mexican officials in August decicated a unified rail cargo processing facility in Laredo that may increase significantly the number of trains that can be processed daily at the border crossing. The facility, constructed by Kansas City Southern Railway, houses Mexican and laboritavely, processing KCS and Union Pacific Railroad trains.

The joint US-Mexican rail cargo processing facility should expedite northbound trains carrying autos and auto parts, produce, and manufactured goods to the US, but also will help clear Mexico-bound trains, said Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, KCS President and CEO.

"This project, and others to follow, are essential to facilitate the goal of expanding trade and particularly increasing exports of goods such as refined petroleum products and petrochemicals from the United States to Mexico," he said, underscoring the importance of US energy exports to Mexico.

Although the US had a $64.4 billion trade deficit in goods with Mexico in 2016, it had an $11.5 billion surplus in energy ralted trade, owing to $20.2 billion in exports of refined petroleum and natrual gas, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

Mexican crude oil exported to theUS increasingly is being refined and exported to Mexico as fuel. Those exports, often delivered in tank cars, are meeting northbound carload and intermodal freight at Laredo, where about 23 trains a day are processed and cleared at the US border.

Northbound rail traffic at Laredo is up 16.5 percent this year, US customs and Border Protection said. Last year, the number of trains crossing the border into the US from MExico at Laredo climbed 2.9 percent and loaded rail containers were up 3.2 percent, US Bureau of Tranportation Statistics data show.

News reports suggested the number of trains crossing dailty at Laredo could climb to more than 40 after the unified rail cargo processing facility is fully online. KCS said the facility already is improving freight flow across the border.

"Eliminating stopping trains on the bridge would increase velocity and fluidity of train movements over the border, which is important for all stakeholders," KCS said in a statement. "Keeping trains moving increases security and throughput, while reducing traffic congestion within the city limits of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo."

Laredo has experienced a boom in truck-related constructions as well, with companies such as Werner Enterprises, Transplace,and Landstar System building or expanding warehousing and crossdocking facilities this year. Rising freight volumes and an imbalance in northbound and southbound traffic encourages cross-docking.

But the fragility of freight infrastructure at the border was highlighted in May when the World Trade International Bridge linking Laredo with Nuevo Laredo, processing more than 12,000 cargo vehicles a day, was closed temporarily after being damaged by heavy rains and high winds Trucks had to be rerouted to the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge, 18 miles to the west, causing delays.

 

Print Edition

AS US, Mexican, and Canadian negotiators clash over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, trucking companies, railroads, and logistics providers are expanding facilities in Laredo, Texas to combat congestion, equipment imbalances, and expedite shipments and vehicles at the border. The goal is to keep Laredo from becoming a cross-border chokepoint, rather than a gateway.

Sep 18, 2017

Breathing Room - State enforcement agencies give three-month reprieve to truckers for installations of ELDs

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US Shippers received a reprieve from a potential logistics nightmare this December when an association representing state law enforcement agencies said ts members would postpone until April 1, 2018, putting truckers out-of-service for not having an electronic logging device.

The April 1 "effective date" for ELD out-of-service enforcement will give truckers, third-party logistics comapnies, and shippers time to adjust to the rule with "minimal disruption to the delivery of goods," the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said in a statement on Aug. 28.

That relieves some concerns, though not all, about tightening truck capacity and rising transportation costs. Spot truck rates are up by double digit from a year ago, and are epected to rise further as goods begin to move toward retail stores for fall sales. Hurricane Harvey also drove up rates.

The CVSA action moderates fear of a "capacity crunch," giving those truckers who can't get the devices into their cabs before the holidays extra time during the first quarter, one of the slowest seasons for trucking. But getting caught without an ELD after Dec. 18 still could prove costly.

Starting Dec. 18, "roadside enforcement personell will begin documenting violations on roadside inspection reports and, at the jurisdiction's discretion, will issue citations," the CVSA said in its statement. "Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service in their vehicle is not equipped with the required device."

The ELD rule covers more than 3 million commercial truck drivers who must shift from using paper logs to recording the hours they work electronically, a step mandated by congress in 2012 and spelled out in a final rule released by the Department of Transportation in 2015.

The goal is to improve highway safety by bolstering truck driver hours-of-service enfrocement. In 2016, false log violations rose 9.6 percent year over year, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data. Electronic logging aims to blunt that increase. Trucking companies have been racing to install ELDs by the December deadline.

The CVSA's decision alleviates fears that thousands of truckers could be placed out of service a week before Christmas. The Aug. 28 announcement clarifies how events are likely to unfold as the mandate takes effect on Dec. 18, and gives mnotor carriers more breathing room.

Phased-in enforcement of the mandate also may blunt attempts to delay implementation of the rule on Capitol Hill. A bill introduced by Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, in July would delay the ELD rule by two years, and the House Transportation Committee attached a rider to an appropriations bill that could lead to a delay by requiring further FMCSA study.

The Owener-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which unsuccesfully challenged the ELD mandate in federal court, is pushing for action in Congress. On Aug. 29, the association filed a petition with the FMCSA, arguing that states that haven't incorporated federal safety regulations into state law can't legally enforce those regulations.

OOIDA said the CVSA decision to postpone "full enforcement" points to "lack of preparedness" at the state level. "Too many states are not ready to roll out hte mandate, and can't possibly be ready by the Dec. 18 deadline," Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said in a statement.

Collin B. Mooney, the CVSA's executive director, expressed "strong opposition" to any delay in the mandate. "Depsite what opponents of the mandate may argue, the enforcement community is ready to begin enforcement of the requirement on Dec. 18," Mooney said in a letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson. "The December deadline for this important safety regulation was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2015 following a decade of regulatory inquiry, study, litigation, and, ultimately, a congressional mandate."

Many smaller trucking companies, however, are far from ready to switch from paper logbooks to ELDs. Companies that haven;t placed orders for ELDs may face shortages of the devices as the Dec. 18 deadline approaches. "The vendors don't have barges sitting off coast loaded with thousands of these devices," John Seidl, a transportation consultant with Integrated Risk Solutions and former roadside inspector, said during an Aug. 3 JOC Webcast.

Logistics executives, including C.H. Robinson Worldwide CEO John Wiehoff, have expressed concern that implementation of the ELD mandate in December could get "very messy." The CVSA decision to phase in enforcement should alleviate the threat of an immediate pre-Christmas capacity snap, and make a more gradual tightening of capacity over the next year most likely.

"CVSA member jurisdictions have used this phased-in approach in the past when implementing significant change in regulatory requirements," Mooney said in his letter. He said the CVSA board and FMCSA agreed the two-phase enforcement strategy would be the best approach and would "promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement."

Truckers, fleet operators, brokers, and shippers, however, shouldn't delay compliance plans. Those that don't take advantage of the wiggle room the phased-in approach affords may find tehmselves in a tight spot on April 1.

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US Shippers received a reprieve from a potential logistics nightmare this December when an association representing state law enforcement agencies said ts members would postpone until April 1, 2018, putting truckers out-of-service for not having an electronic logging device.

The April 1 "effective date" for ELD out-of-service enforcement will give truckers, third-party logistics comapnies, and shippers time to adjust to the rule with "minimal disruption to the delivery of goods," the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said in a statement on Aug. 28.

Jan 02, 2018

Economic Outlook International Trade: Cargo Growth Forecasted For San Pedro Bay Ports Despite Slight Loss In Market Share

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A fog of uncertainty surrounding the outlook for international trade through the San Pedro Bay ports has cleared now that the new alliance structures among major shipping companies are two months into operation and, according to port officials, have rolled out smoothly.

In advance of four alliances among the world’s largest shipping companies consolidating into three alliances, which occurred in April, trade experts wondered if there would be changes in which ships called which local port and if there would be any confusion.

Subsequently, both ports experienced the busiest May in their histories – and the outlook remains positive.

The combined ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles could achieve an all-time high for imported cargo traffic this year, according to John Husing, chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. “I think that this year the import side will set an all-time record. The previous high was 8.2 million TEUs in 2006,” he said, referring to twenty-foot equivalent units. “It has taken a long time to recover, but in 2017, it looks like it’s going to come in somewhere around 8.4 or 8.5 million [TEUs].”

Mario Cordero, the newly-minted executive director of the Port of Long Beach (POLB), said POLB should experience between 4% and 5% import growth by the end of 2017.

Michael DiBernardo, deputy executive director of marketing and customer relations for the Port of Los Angeles (POLA), said he expects to finish the calendar year with a 2.8% gain in imports.

Export traffic, on the other hand, is still stymied by the pressure of a strong American dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive abroad. One euro is currently worth about $1.12 in American money, according to Husing. “[The dollar] has weakened a little bit. I just got back from Europe, and a month ago it was $1.05 per euro. . . . But still, it’s quite strong, and that strength tends to encourage imports and discourage exports.”

Despite that, Husing said he expects exported containerized cargo traffic through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to either meet or come close to their record export volume of 3.6 million TEUs.

“Exports, of course, are always challenging,” Cordero said. “They are challenging across the nation. . . . But having said all that, I think the good news looking forward is this nation is going to be on a full-court press with regard to selling and exporting American product. And we’re going to find ways to do that.”

Although cargo volumes at both ports are increasing, Husing said they appear to be losing their market share in respect to other ports in the country. An oft-cited statistic is that 40% of the nation’s goods move through the San Pedro Bay Ports – but that share has dropped to 38%, according to the economist.

The expansion of the Panama Canal, which added a third, deeper lock for ships, has resulted in some loss of traffic to East Coast ports, according to Husing. Additionally, the San Pedro Bay ports have lost some of their market share to other West Coast ports. The increasing role of India, which ships through Egypt’s Suez Canal to America, as an exporter to the U.S. has also resulted in some loss of market share, he explained.

DiBernardo said the Port of Los Angeles is keeping an eye on the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which recently raised its Bayonne Bridge to allow larger ships to cross beneath it. The Port of Long Beach, it should be noted, is in the midst of a similar undertaking by demolishing its Gerald Desmond Bridge and replacing it with a taller structure.

While Husing thinks the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are doing well and will continue to experience increasing cargo volumes, he speculated that their market share would continue to diminish. Factors such as traffic congestion and a court’s decision to kill BNSF Railway’s Southern California International Gateway project, which could have alleviated some of that congestion by expanding the area’s rail capacity, also contribute to this outlook, he explained.

Cordero, who served as a harbor commissioner at POLB from 2003 until 2010, when President Barack Obama appointed him to the Federal Maritime Commission, acknowledged that there has been a single-digit percentage loss in market share for the San Pedro Bay ports. But, he pointed out, when he was a commissioner, the worst-case scenario projection for the future was as much as a 25% loss.

“There has been some loss of the market share. . . . But on the other hand, it’s nowhere near the magnitude that people may have estimated some years ago,” Cordero said. Still, he is not content to simply protect POLB’s position – he wants to grow it. “I’m confident we can do that,” he said.

Capital Projects And Supply Chain Improvements

The Port of Long Beach is spending about $4 billion on two major capital improvement projects to achieve that end. The Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project, which involves combining two aging terminals to accommodate the world’s largest ships, is currently in phase two of three, according to Cordero. Long Beach Container Terminal, a division of Orient Overseas Carrier Line, has been operating the completed first phase since 2015. The terminal features zero-emission cranes and cargo moving equipment, as will its other facilities upon completion in 2019.

“Long Beach Container Terminal is a state of the art terminal in the United States and, for that matter, in the world,” Cordero said. “So we are starting to see the fruition of that in terms of the numbers. It’s sort of like the old cliché, you know: Build it and they will come. So we are starting to see that.”

The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project is visibly progressing, with two massive towers hovering high above the roadway of the existing bridge, as well as pillars and roadway approaches underway on either side of the structure. “Again, among the reasons we moved forward with that endeavor was to raise the height of that bridge so that it would accommodate these newer vessels,” Cordero said. The bridge should be completed in fall of next year, he noted.

“That bridge is going to be iconic, not just to Long Beach and this port but to the nation,” Cordero said.

A proposal to expand rail infrastructure at Pier B in the Port of Long Beach is one that Cordero considers important to boosting cargo movement efficiencies. The draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the project was released earlier in the year and is now closed for comments. There are multiple options proposed, including creating additional tracks to 9th Street or as far as 12th Street.

Added rail capacity would reduce truck congestion and pollution, according to Cordero. However, the draft EIR does point out that the project would have some negative effects related to air emissions.

As previously reported by the Business Journal, Westside Long Beach businesses are in the path of the project, and owners worry about being forced to close or relocate. Others nearby have voiced concerns about air quality impacts.

“We are certainly not dismissive of any stakeholder, much less the business community and the small business enterprises that are in that particular corridor,” Cordero said. “You know, no one is going to try to be dismissive and ignore their legitimate issues. So we are going to be very engaged with it.”

The Port of Los Angeles is wrapping up two terminal improvement projects in coming months. Yusen Terminals’ facility has had its wharf water levels deepened to accommodate larger vessels, and an on-dock rail project for the terminal should be complete in November, according to DiBernardo.

Improvements including extended wharves, increased water depths at berths and new cranes are nearly complete at the TraPac Terminal. Its new automated equipment is currently undergoing testing, DiBernardo noted.

POLA is currently reviewing comments on the environmental impact report for similar improvements to its Evergreen Terminal. “After we respond [to comments], we’re hoping to get it out for our board to review by October or November of this year,” DiBernardo said.

Both ports have been working together to improve the efficiency of the supply chain through a series of meetings with stakeholders sanctioned by the Federal Maritime Commission. In 2015, the chassis pool of pools, an interchangeable pick-up and drop-off system among several companies for the equipment used by trucks to haul containers, was one result. But Cordero hopes more solutions can be brought to fruition.

“In my view, we’re going to continue with the objectives of that endeavor. But I think now we’re at a point where we’re going to start narrowing the issues, because we need a deliverable,” Cordero said.

The Port of Los Angeles is engaged in a couple of pilot programs aimed at providing more information related to supply chain efficiencies. “We now have access to information that has GPS in trucks, and we’re able to get the total visit time that the trucks are at the port,” DiBernardo said. “That even includes outside the gate and in the terminal. And we have seen some improvements there with the turn times,” he explained.

POLA is also continuing its pilot program in partnership with GE to gather data from incoming ships to share among terminals and ensure better flow of goods upon arrival.

“Providing data 14 days before the ship arrives provides a benefit to the chassis providers to make sure there are enough chassis available for when the ship arrives, [and] for the rail providers to make sure there are enough rail cars,” DiBernardo said. “And even for the trucking community to make sure they have the truck power to move that cargo for their respective customers. We think this portal gives you that information, provides that information ahead of time.”

Environmental Efforts

After Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made a joint announcement in early June committing to achieving zero-emission operations at their cities’ ports by 2035, the ports released a timeline for implementing the update to their Clean Air Action Plan, which will set the parameters to achieve this goal.

The draft of the updated plan is set to be released on July 19, commencing the public commenting period. On August 30, a public workshop to collect comments will be held at 5 p.m. at Banning’s Landing, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington.

The written comment period closes on September 18. In November, the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbor commissioners plan to hold a joint meeting to approve the final version of the Clean Air Action Plan 2017.

Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles is also in the midst of another effort meant to assess air quality. The port has released a draft EIR that updates a 2008 report related to the construction and operation of the China Shipping Container Terminal. The new EIR analyzes potential new environmental impacts and effects to air quality, greenhouse gases and other issues that could result from incrementally increasing cargo traffic through that terminal. The public comment period on that document ends on July 31.

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A fog of uncertainty surrounding the outlook for international trade through the San Pedro Bay ports has cleared now that the new alliance structures among major shipping companies are two months into operation and, according to port officials, have rolled out smoothly.

In advance of four alliances among the world’s largest shipping companies consolidating into three alliances, which occurred in April, trade experts wondered if there would be changes in which ships called which local port and if there would be any confusion.

Jul 07, 2017

Shutdown of Maersk Terminal Calls Attention to Industry Preparedness for Cyber Threats

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The largest terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, APM Terminal, was shut down from June 20 until June 23 as Maersk Line, the shipping line that calls on that terminal, contended with the impacts of a wide-spread European malware attack.

"We can confirm that our gates are open for imports and exports tonight and tomrorow for the first shift at APM terminals in Los Angeles," Katherine Mosquera, regional communications manager for parent company A.P. Moller-Maersk, stated via e0mail on June 23. A Maersk statement released that day indicated the company expected worldwide operations to return to complete normalcy by July 3.

According to Port of Los Angeles spokesperson Phillip Sanfield, each terminal at the port has its own operating systems, and each is responsible for those systems. He said operations at the APM Terminal were "Minimally affected."

Like the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles is a landlord port. "Each of the terminals are an individual business, and they have their own IT systems. And they are responsible for them," Nyariana Maiko, chief information officer and director of information management for the Port of Long Beach, told the Business Journal.

In the event that a terminal at POLB shut down due to a cyberattack, Maiko said the port would offer the affected terminal assistance. "We would definitely offer whatever services we could," she said.

The port of Long Beach works with the FBY and the U.S. Coast Guard on matters of security, including cybersecurity, according to Maiko. POLB also has relationships with technology firms that develop widely used cybersecurity systems, she noted.

"I think the shipping industry, like any other industry, has to bne ready," Maiko said of cyber threats. "I think this incident will raise awareness and make everybody pay attention to it." Cyberattacks are likely to become more commonplace in many industries, she noted.

Following the cyberattack, Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Ted Poe, co-chairs of the PORTS Caucus, sent a letter to Depoartment of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly requesting a congressional briefing to "better understand the scope of existing cybersecurity information sharing programs between DHS and critical infrastcuture operators, such as port terminal operators."

In a press release, Lowenthal stated, "Our nation's ports are the gateways to our national economy. WE cannot leave them vulnerable to these cyberattacks...we have to make sure that we use every tool at our disposal to prevent attacks at the heart of our economic infrastructure. Our federal security agencies have some of the best cybersecurity expertts in the world, and these agencies should leverage that expertise to help prevent attacks on critical infrastucture like our ports."

 

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The largest terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, APM Terminal, was shut down from June 20 until June 23 as Maersk Line, the shipping line that calls on that terminal, contended with the impacts of a wide-spread European malware attack.