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Night moves: Long Beach begins trial of extended-hour cargo pickup

Total Terminals offers truckers flexible reservation times

TTI operates the largest container terminal at the Port of Long Beach. The terminal is widening its access to trucks in hopes of increasing utilization of the terminal’s late night and third shift gates. (Photo: POLB)

Total Terminals International is the launch partner for the Port of Long Beach’s new initiative to increase cargo velocity by expanding gate hours for truck pickup. The move comes amid a huge container surge that is choking productivity and jeopardizing retailers’ holiday deliveries.

The operator of the port’s largest container terminal, located on Pier T, will encourage truckers to make late-night and pre-dawn trips for containers by offering more flexible appointment windows. Shuttle drivers will be able to pick up containers from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The gates will be open for prearranged double moves — empty container drop-off plus loaded pickup — between 3 and 7 a.m. In both cases, drivers with appointments will be able to show up at any time rather than being held to a strict reservation slot, the port authority said Tuesday.

Making containers available at off-peak hours is designed to increase throughput by servicing trucks at less busy times and help speed warehouse trips because of reduced levels of traffic on roadways.

“We welcome this pilot project by TTI as a first step toward extending gates to 24/7 operations, and we encourage our cargo owners and trucking partners to give this innovative program a try,” Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement.

The Port of Long Beach on Friday announced the plan for extended gate hours. The Port of Los Angeles is testing permanent weekend gates. The programs were implemented in consultation with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House in response to supply chain disruptions on businesses and the economy.

The average dwell time for containers unloaded from vessels at marine terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has stretched to six days, according to port officials. Shortages of warehouse space, truck drivers and equipment, on-dock rail capacity, and terminal space, combined with COVID restrictions on longshore labor, have made it difficult for terminals to process containers being dumped by container ships amid a consumer ordering spree that shows few signs of abating. As the funnel for containers tightens, the time to work vessels has increased, resulting in an off-shore queue of more than 70 box ships waiting to park. 

“If we can increase utilization of our late-night gates, we can better serve the supply chain, and help speed cargo to market,” said Bill Peratt, CEO of TTI. “By making it more convenient for truckers, we are optimistic that these steps can reduce the dwell time at our terminal.”

TTI is part of Terminal Investment Ltd., the port operating arm of Mediterranean Shipping Co. The facility has 3.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units of capacity, with 16 cranes able to handle 18,000-TEU mega-ships.

TTI will periodically evaluate the late-night trial program and make necessary adjustments, the Long Beach port authority said. The terminal will monitor gate utilization, dwell time of import containers and truck driver time on the dock as it assesses the program’s effectiveness. 

“As of now, no subsidies have been defined. As we scale up the pilot program, we plan to work with our terminals to develop incentives for our customers to utilize the night gates,” Deputy Director Noel Hacegaba said in an email response to a query about how the overnight gate operation will be paid for.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]