A Transport Topicsarticle from August 15 highlighted an issue we’ve been experiencing, as have retailers, shippers and carriers nationwide. A couple years ago, steamship lines began converting U.S. service from door-to-door, to port-to-port. The conversion is expected to last another two years.
The problems lie in three (3) main areas: (a) who now owns and maintains the chassis?—an ongoing debate, usually leaving the trucker holding the bag; (b) administration and transportation costs have increased for carriers; (c) the maintenance deficiencies with a chassis (not owned by the carrier) are resulting in fines and harmful safety violations against the carrier and driver.
Oftentimes, the chassis is owned by a leasing company with an off-pier or port yard. The carrier picks up the chassis, and in whatever the condition it’s in. The driver has little or no ability to swap a bad chassis for better. The driver is in pressed to move the freight, or risk losing pay; the shipper wants its container without delay; and the chassis yard knows it, and plays its cards.
Driver hooks onto that chassis and drives to the port to get loaded; leaves with the container, and wham—a roadside inspection finds 1, 2, 5 violations on the chassis. The violations go to the carrier and the driver. The driver and carrier and their records are cooked, unless they successfully fight and overturn the violation. As violations mount, the carrier is increasingly targeted by law enforcement, and so on. Adding insult to injury, upon return of the chassis, the leasing outfit may request the driver to repair!
The costs of the added chassis yard stop, then transport to pier, to warehouse, to chassis yard again adds new cost, reduces a driver’s pay and work hours, and increases the overhead of managing the process.
This no-win scenario spells a real fear that drayage carriers have been leaving, and will continue to leave the marketplace, leading to capacity shortages and much higher prices for service. As steamship lines continue their march from the chassis business, chassis yards will be further away from the piers—adding to cost, administration and time spent moving containers.