Container terminal at night

U.S. East Coast ports are buckling under the weight of record cargo volumes, causing many truckers to begin charging for hours lost due to terminal congestion.

East Coast ports are struggling to get out from under an overload of containers, a situation created by the backlog at West Coast ports, a spat of winter storms, and the extra-loaders from the Chinese New Year. Several terminals are so overloaded they are turning away empty containers, citing lack of room. This has dramatically slowed truck turn times, tying up desperately needed chassis in long waiting lines at the ports. By continuing to refuse empties, the terminals are, in effect, further reducing the chassis available to pick up import loads—the very reason the terminals are clogged up in the first place.

Truckers are caught right in the middle. They have to pay to store empties while seeking chassis to pick up loads. As the week wears on, they continue to waste their time running between drop yards, chassis pools, and terminals—for no revenue—only to pick up a fraction of the containers they had originally planned.

Lines at some terminals are worse than others, but truckers are not committed to a single terminal. They might have to wait in line to drop an empty container at one terminal, then get in another line to pick up an import load at a different one. To recoup their lost time, many truckers are offsetting the delays they incur by charging a flat congestion fee, hourly wait fees, or a combination of the two. Some shippers may be hit with a second round of fees if demurrage and detention penalties are incurred as a result of the delays.

Mohawk will make every effort to avoid these charges, as we work through the congestion issues. However, should such charges present themselves, we will invoice them as pass-through charges.

We anticipate this situation coming to a close shortly, as the weather warms up and the extra volume becomes a distant memory.

Rich Roche is Vice President of International Transportation for Mohawk Global Logistics. Click here to read more about Rich Roche.