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The top 3 issues drayage carriers face when returning empty containers to LA - LB terminals

And how to overcome them

22/05/2019

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are major container freight hubs driving a throughput of more than 17m TEUs per year (2018) across 12 terminals. Located in the San Pedro Bay, the port complex is serviced by more than 600 drayage carriers employing 12,000 to 17,000 drivers in the South California market. While these ports are the two busiest in the United States, they may also be the most complex for drayage carriers’ operations.

Drayage companies’ mission to take full import containers out of terminals and bring back empty or export boxes is difficult and highly constrained. Carriers must juggle many sources of information – terminals, steamship lines, beneficial cargo owners, truck drivers – which constantly change and may contradict each other. Planning container pick-up or return requires many time-consuming processes including communication via email or phone, appointment booking and dispatch among the truck fleet. Moreover, in order to protect their margin and generate profits, carriers must work on maximizing the number of dual transactions and avoiding the most congested terminals. All these tasks must be fulfilled during the limited time frame of demurrage and detention free days (~4 days, depending on contract), otherwise terminals and shipping lines may bill them for yard space or equipment utilization.

Below is an overview of five main issues drayage carriers encounter when returning empty containers to terminals:

1 - You constantly track empty return locations on the 12 terminal websites

Your dispatching and customer service teams need to know terminals’ empty receiving instructions to book appointments and plan operations. This tracking process is very time consuming and painful because it involves reading bad tables with different acronyms and layouts each time. Not to mention that this information is not always consistent with shipping lines’ instructions or it might be insufficient because it is still unclear which steamship line / terminal has on-hired the containers.

2 - A terminal closes empty receiving in the middle of a shift

Last minute changes are the most painful when truck drivers are already waiting in line to return an empty box and pick-up a full import. This can greatly impact carriers’ revenue, particularly if it implies demurrage or detention fees.

If you automatically track empty return instructions and can prove that a last minute change happened (illegitimately, according to UIIA), you have more leverage to be granted additional demurrage / detention free days. Real-time and accurate data on return instructions is also very helpful to redispatch trucks when planning changes.

3 - Drivers wait for hours in terminal because of congestion

Since the implementation of appointment systems, truck turn times have improved in the Los Angeles - Long Beach terminals, they are now around 80 minutes average for both ports. However, there remains days with several hours of queue before picking up a load.
The worst case is when a terminal ends-up considering that a driver missed his appointment while he has just been waiting in line for the past hours. During these critical situations it might be wise to aim for the terminal a couple hours before the actual appointment time.

BlueCargo has built a single web platform giving visibility on empty return instructions for the 12 Los Angeles - Long Beach container terminals. The platform displays real time information on return instruction and will provide access to historical data. Our goal is to provide more transparency to the drayage community and smooth interactions with terminal operators and shipping lines.

 

Check it out on: https://erl.bluecargo.io

BlueCargo has built a single web platform giving visibility on empty return instructions for the 12 Los Angeles - Long Beach container terminals. The platform displays real time information on return instruction and will provide access to historical data. Our goal is to provide more transparency to the drayage community and smooth interactions with terminal operators and shipping lines.

Check it out on: https://erl.bluecargo.io

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