IANA reaches agreement on maintaining roadworthy containers
Intermodal operators, railroads, and motor carriers have reached a tentative agreement with steamship lines on the contentious issue of who is responsible for making sure ocean containers are safe to operate over the road.
Barry Michaels, assistant vice president for premium operations at Union Pacific Railroad and the new chairman of the Intermodal Association of North America, suggested that the specter of government intervention made it possible to reach a consensus after a working group from IANA and the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, which represents 18 vessel operators, spent three years negotiating guidelines laying out when and how the ocean carriers care for equipment.
Bills being considered in the House and Senate would mandate that liner carriers provide trucking companies with roadworthy equipment.
IANA's board approved the framework agreement presented by the working team during the organization's annual meeting and expo Nov. 15-18, held in conjunction with the National Industrial Transportation League conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
'We think we will have a strawman proposal in 90 days and our intent is to forward it to the federal government to preclude any legislation,' Michael said during an offsite roundtable discussion on intermodal issues sponsored by drayage company H&M International. He said IANA officials recently met with the staff of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who indicated the senator might be willing to offer a substitute bill based on an industry compromise.
A federal bill would not preclude states from imposing their own solutions, but 'we feel that states will back off if there is an industry solution,' he told the small group of freight transportation industry officials. A handful of states already have so-called 'roadability' laws in place.
Truckers have long complained that steamship lines have ignored maintenance problems, forcing them to make the difficult choice of refusing a load or accepting it along with the risk of being caught by police and truck inspectors for operating an unsafe commercial vehicle. Trucking groups argue that they should bear the burden of having to fix the equipment or pay penalties for equipment they do not own.
The preliminary agreement between IANA and the ocean carriers focuses on maintenance for thousands of containers and indemnifying truck drivers for out-of-service equipment violations that are not in their control, Michaels said.
'It's a matter of inspecting equipment on a more frequent basis and making repairs,' Michael told American Shipper.
Under the proposal, equipment that travels on highways would be repaired more often than once per year. If any defects are noticed, the steamship line will undertake a full inspection of the container/chassis and make any necessary repairs. In the past, repairs often were made without checking the equipment for any other problems.
The working group is still working out details of the plan, specifically on how far apart to space inspections. The question under review is whether equipment must undergo a top-to-bottom inspection after experiencing a flat tire or other problem if a comprehensive inspection was just conducted in the preceding few weeks.