Truck Protest at the Port of Oakland Today (Monday, December 8, 2014)

Conditions at the West Coast port terminals have seriously deteriorated in past weeks. I have been writing about how horrible conditions have become awful in the past month. Apparently, drivers at the port of Oakland have had enough. We received a message last Friday from one local trucking company that drivers at the Oakland port were intending to protest at the port terminals today, Monday, December 8th. We have confirmed this morning that many trucking companies are indeed facing a protest. Here is a message from one our local drayers:

Today , drivers have not shown up for work  in support of the truckers work stoppage  against the unreasonable delays at the terminals and to highlight their complaints against Union workers. We have learned that numerous drivers, including our own independent contractors, have agreed not to work , either to join their support to the protest, or out of fear for their safety.. Moreover, several transportation companies will not be sending their drivers to the terminals on the day of the protest.

This protest at the port of Oakland is unfortunate in timing, but should not come as a surprise. We have seen the West Coast terminal situation become absolutely unbearable as truckers are not able to consistently get into the terminals to pick up and return containers.

I would like to also share a snapshot of messages we have received this past week from what we consider to be some of our long standing most trusted trucking partners along the U.S. West Coast.

  • “There most likely will be demurrage charges for this container. We will only accept if you guys guarantee demurrage for however many days we need to pull container. Also, once your container becomes available, we won’t be able to schedule until the LFD. We have too many demurraged containers at the moment. Please confirm. Thanks”
  • ​”Well received and even we got the order days ahead before the arrival, there’s no sufficient time to pull out containers from terminals. Due to terminals congestion, we don’t guarantee pickup of containers on or before the LFD​​. Please provide allowance for additional chassis usage because we’re havi​​ng problems on the return too.  Thank you.”
  • “Notes:  Due to the current situation at Oakland Port, we will not be ​responsible for DEMURRAGE CHARGES if container​ ​is not p/u before the last free date​. In order to process the order and assured that we received the document we​ ​will acknowledge receipt of your order by providing a REFERENCE#. If we do​ ​not reply, please contact us immediately”​

The reality is that there is no guarantee these days that a driver going into a terminal will be able to get out of a terminal in any reliable time frame, if at all. In the past, trucking companies were able to schedule drivers to arrange pickups and deliveries ahead of time with a basic amount of certainty. However under current conditions, trucking companies are having to turn away pick up and delivery requests because they just cannot be sure their drivers will be available to successfully get into a terminal. If the trucker does accept the delivery order, they are requesting that we provide a flexible time frame for actually retrieving the container. This means that there WILL be a possibility that a container may not be picked up until AFTER the last free day. This means there may be BOTH demurrage charges to be paid to the terminal AND waiting time charges to be paid to the trucker. In the case of the port of Seattle and Tacoma, we ask that importers be aware that trucking companies are having extreme difficulty even returning empty containers. This can lead to storage and detention charges on empty containers.

Many of our long time trucking partners have turned away a large amount of business in recent months. This turning away of business has only accelerated in recent weeks with various truckers already stating they are booked through much of the month of December.

I have been pleading with our customers to be patient and flexible in this time. If we are assisting you with your trucking moves, this means that we ask that you be understanding if we indicate that we are looking for drivers that can assist with a delivery. You may find that we are using alternative trucking companies outside of normal ones you are used to working with. We ask that you be understanding if we indicate that there may be demurrage and/or special waiting time/congestion charges associated with a pickup.

Great World is first and foremost a service company that has the best interests of our customers at heart. We value our long term partnership with our customers and believe strongly in building mutually beneficial relationships. This is an extremely trying time. We ask that you work with us as well as the trucking community to get through it.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

-Jimmy Ting
Great World
t: 650-873-9050 x1019


ALL Port of Oakland Terminals Continue to Operate Slowly

I’ve mentioned over the last half year about the problems at SSA terminal in Oakland. However it is important to note that SSA is not alone when it comes to causing problems for the importing community. Over the past three weeks, we have seen containers at Ports of America take over a week after arrival to become available for a pickup appointment. We recently experienced the same situation with another container at Ben E. Nutter Terminal. From talking to truckers, these problems are widespread across all the Oakland terminals.

Truckers have also advised us that they are being closed out of terminals by early/mid afternoon each day. One local drayage company, Devine Intermodal, discusses this issue in detail on their news site. If truckers are not able to pick up containers in the mid-afternoon, they will not be able to deliver the required number of containers necessary to make a living wage.

At the heart of the matter of terminal efficiency apparently is $$$.

  • Terminal operators and the steamship lines that operate them want to save money by limiting the number of longshoremen used each day as well as the amount of overtime paid.
  • Longshoremen seem to be flexing their muscles and showing their ability to affect terminal efficiency in recent weeks in the slow buildup to their contract renewal negotiations. Note that the ILWU current contract is set to expire on June 30, 2014.

The end result of these issues is that importers will have to face the following:

  • An increase in the cost of trucking if drivers are not able to deliver their usual number of loads.
  • Delays in receiving containers as the terminals remain congested.

What is unfortunate is that we do not see a solution in the near future. As the steamship lines continue to lose money in recent years, we have seen them take a number of actions to save money:

  • Slow steaming to reduce fuel cost.
  • Pushing the responsibility for chassis rental directly onto the backs of importers.
  • Limiting the amount of labor used at terminals.

All of these actions add to the total cost that importers have to pay for bringing in their products while at the same time making it very difficult for importers to expedite shipments. I urge that importers in the Oakland and Northern California community plan accordingly and adjust their expectations in the coming year.

-Jimmy Ting

Great World Logistics (GWL)
Great World Customs Service
Great World Express


More Labor Disruption from the Port of Oakland Truckers Association: The Saga Continued

The Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA) voted on late last Friday to stop work at the port of Oakland this Wednesday, November 27th. While truckers are still dissatisfied with the turn time at various terminals at the port of Oakland (specifically with SSA), their current complaint is mainly focused on the January 1st deadline set in place by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the trucks to be retrofitted to meet new emission standards. POTA is asking the port of Oakland to charge a $50 per container emissions fee to help pay for the cost and maintenance of CARB compliant trucks.

With CARB and the port of Oakland not signaling any willingness to accept the request, POTA has has indicated they will demonstrate. The city of Oakland has indicated they will have police officers on site to make sure the roads leading to the terminals are open. However there is no guarantee that they will be successful. The other wildcard in the process are the ILWU longshoremen. If the longshoremen do decide not to cross the picket lines, it isn’t going to matter whether the Oakland police are able to keep the roads open.

Importers should be prepared for more possible delays.

Continued Delays at SSA Terminal, Oakland

I’ve been meaning to write about the SSA Terminal (Oakland) situation for a few months now. I apologize for not providing an update sooner. This is a long overdue posting.

I would like to say that the situation at SSA Terminal has improved since August. However the reality is that the situation is still dire. Conditions for truckers at SSA Terminal have not significantly improved. Truckers are advising us that they are taking four to sometimes even six hours to get a container out of SSA Terminal. In recent days, the terminal has been closing early in the afternoon (by 2-3pm) and preventing truckers from coming in to pick up container due to congestion. While we haven’t seen whole sections of SSA Terminal closed off for days on end as we did in July, the congestion above was enough to lead to two days of trucker’s protests on October 21 and October 22nd.

The reality is that unless conditions at SSA Terminal change drastically, we will continue to see labor disruption from frustrated truck drivers.

So what can members of the importing and exporting community do? What power do you have to effect change?

1.) Put pressure on steamship lines (carriers). They are SSA Terminal’s real paying customers. The trade community can put pressure on carriers in a number of ways. Besides voicing their displeasure with written and vocal complaints, the trade community can hit carriers where it counts. Stop booking containers with carriers if the intended vessel plans on calling SSA Terminal.

2.) Work with trucking companies and truck drivers to help compensate them for their time at SSA Terminal. I know of one trucking company that already has decided on charging a $150/container Congestion Surcharge for any container picked up at SSA Terminal. Be willing to listen to an negotiate with trucking companies if they do ask for an increase in delivery rates for containers at SSA Terminal.

In addition to being open to negotiating delivery rates, please be understanding when truck drivers are unable to return empty containers back to the terminal within the standard five day free detention time. We have already had a number of cases recently where truck drivers have had difficulty returning containers to the terminal within the standard five day detention time due to congestion at the terminals. In each of the cases, the trucking companies have asked us to help bear the cost of detention charge, and we have agreed. However this is a losing proposition both in the short and long term.

I am not confident that we will see a quick solution to the problem. I have heard nary a peep from the carriers who call on SSA Terminal. I know the new Executive Director of the Port of Oakland is working hard to find solutions. However considering the nature of the parties involved in this mess, I am not holding my breath.

-Jimmy Ting
Great World Customs Service

Shortage of Available Trucks Result in Delays in Container Deliveries at the Port of Oakland


The port of Oakland (along with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach) have made concerted attempts in the past few years to rein in pollution caused by trucks pulling containers from the ports.  The California Air Resources Board is regulating the types of trucks, specifically the engines, that are allowed into the ports. As of the January 1, 2013, trucks with 2006 or older model engines are no longer allowed into the port terminals of Oakland.  What surprised me was how many trucking companies seemed to be unprepared for this change.

We discovered in the past week a sudden drop in capacity of drivers. Rough estimates by various trucking companies estimate the drop in capacity by as much as 20%. This, combined with congestion at the terminals, has led to delays in getting containers out of the port. Some truckers are in the process of getting new trucks. Others are in the process of replacing their engines. Some drivers are opting to modify their engines to become compliant (a short-term solution). From talking to various trucking companies, they estimate that this process may take a few weeks to complete. I would not expect a resolution to this issue until after the Chinese New Year.

In the meantime, importers and exporters should plan ahead with the knowledge that they may not be able to get containers out of the ports as quickly as they have in the past. I would advise importers to be flexible with their receiving schedule and have a strong line of communication with their trucking companies.

-Jimmy Ting