SoCal portsÆ truck plan facing serious launch hurdles
The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles appear to be softening their adherence to the Oct. 1 launch of a $2.4 billion plan aimed at reshaping the local drayage industry.
In closed-door discussions Tuesday, Southern California marine terminal operators and port officials learned that despite more than two years of planning and development by the ports, key technical processes at the heart of the truck plan remain unresolved and drayage industry signups are running well below expectations.
In the face of these hurdles, the two ports are seriously considering altering details of the Oct. 1 launch of the plan, shifting from a ‘full launch’ to a ‘soft launch,’ utilizing improvised and temporary workarounds.
To launch each of the truck plan’s major components — bans on pre-1989 trucks, the collection of a container tax, and any trucking firm not holding a ports-issued access license — the ports plan to rely on their marine terminal operators to be the plan’s gatekeepers.
As envisioned by the ports’ plan, a truck wishing to service the ports on Oct. 1 would have to already be entered in a ports-created drayage truck registry, or DTR. This information would also be programmed into a radio frequency identification device on the truck. On arrival, readers at each terminal’s gates would collect each truck’s RFID information, and compare this data to the truck database. The information would then tell the terminal operators if the truck meets the ports’ truck plan criteria for entering the terminals. The terminal operators would be required to turn away trucks flagged by the system as non-compliant with the ports’ plan.
However, each terminal uses different software to run its gates and making these proprietary and often highly customized systems coordinate with the off-site truck database software is proving to be more difficult than first predicted.
Marine terminal operators told port officials Tuesday that at least several major container terminals in the ports had yet to overcome the problem and that a Jan. 1, start of the plan was more realistic.
Port officials, who have remained adamant about the Oct. 1 start date of the plan, told the terminal operators that such a delay was not acceptable.
An additional technical problem facing the truck plan is that, according to the ports’ DTR contractor, about 90 percent of the individual truck records in the DTR are incomplete. Out of more than 12,000 trucks entered in the DTR only about 1,200 records contain all of the required information, said officials from port contractor eModal.
As a patchwork solution, the ports are considering issuing compliance window stickers to the roughly 14,000 trucks that meet the truck plan’s criteria. The terminal operators would use the stickers to identify who can enter the terminal under the truck plan. If the ports adopt the sticker plan, the launch of the electronic system would be postponed until Nov. 1. An added complication of the sticker scenario would be that each port may issue its own sticker, due to variations in each ports’ criteria for what is and is not a compliant truck.
The ports are also lagging in the issuance of access licenses to motor carrier applicants that are fully registered in the DTR. The licenses are required for each truck wishing to continue working at the ports after Oct. 1, but as of Tuesday none had been issued. – Keith Higginbotham