The Harbor Trucking Association, a collective group of 100 trucking companies that do business at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, knew that they were losing productivity because of long waiting times for trucks to drop off and pickup containers, says Stark. To validate their concerns, the association conducted its own study.
"We tracked 40,000 to 50,000 container moves a month, which is a pretty intense study, and we found that the numbers support what we have been saying and that we have to do something about improving productivity at the ports," he says. "We have to do a better job of getting our trucks in and out so they are not just sitting there waiting."
After taking the results of this study to port authorities, "they now want to work with us," Stark says. "Having the data to back up our claims gives us a chip in the game."
Stark says the remedy for this situation is to implement a tracking system that merges GPS information on trucks and containers with Caltrans information on highway conditions. This would create a system that can be compared to air traffic control, he says. "When a trucker leaves a dock and is headed to drop off a container at the port, he would be monitored like an approach at the airport," he says. "If he hits a big tie-up on the freeway, the schedule would be automatically updated. It is an adaptable appointment system, so when the driver arrives there's no two to three hours of waiting. He stops, checks in, picks up or drops off his container and gets out again," Stark says.
Stark says the HTA is hoping to convince the Los Angeles and Long Beach port authorities to support a beta test for such a system. "My company and others have agreed to be guinea pigs because we believe this concept will have widespread application to other ports," Stark says.
The technology already is available and has been proved at ports in Jordan and a few other countries, he says. The central piece of hardware required is the smart phone. "Most drivers already have a cell phone but a smart phone is required. With available applications, drivers can tap on a smart phone screen to send a status message," he says.
Almost all trucks going into and out of the ports are fairly new because they have to meet strict emission requirements, which means they likely are equipped with GPS, Stark says. A system would take the GPS and smart phone data and combine it with data from existing terminal operations systems and public information available from Caltrans. "All of this will be brought together in an adaptive appointment center with the technology to manage incoming traffic much like air traffic control does today"
Stark further suggests that money to fund a test project might come from the federal Harbor Maintenance Fee. "This is a tax on every container moving through U.S. ports, but money from the tax is used only for deep water dredging," he says. "California has deep water ports, so we don't get any of that money, so we are suggesting a redefinition of how that money can be spent, allowing us to keep 10 percent to 15 percent in Southern California to help facilitate a beta test."
Stark also reports that a collaborative meeting recently was held on this issue with the California Trucking Association, the HTA, both ports, several marine terminal operators and longshoremen. "I am cautiously optimistic that things are moving in the right direction," he says.
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