Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Study Tracks Truck Turn Times at SoCal Ports

The results of a major study of truck turn times at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles has found that nearly 60 percent of all truck visits to the ports take less than an hour and more than 90 percent of truckers spent less than an hour waiting to get into a terminal.

Commissioned by PierPass Inc. and Ability/Tri-Modal Transportation Services Inc., the Turn Time Study used Global Positioning System equipment to track 250 trucks and develop a representative model of the 10,000-truck strong drayage fleet servicing the two ports.

The study was developed as a tool to help the ports community discuss visit times based on factual information rather than on anecdotes, and provides the ports stakeholder with a common set of metrics regarding truck turn times.

The study evaluated three time periods: queue time, i.e., time spent waiting in line outside the gates; terminal time, i.e., time spent from the entry gate to the exit gate; and visit time, the sum of queue and terminal time.

Key findings of the study include:
  • The median queue time in October was 20 minutes and the terminal time 31 minutes, for a total median visit time of 51 minutes.
  • The vast majority of visits take less than two hours: 27 percent are under 30 minutes, 58 percent under an hour, 75 percent under one and a half hours, and 86 percent under two hours. A further 12 percent of visits take two to four hours, and 1 percent to 2 percent of visits take between four and eight hours.
  • About 91 percent of queue times were under an hour.
  • The median queue and visit times include trucks that choose to arrive early to wait for the 6:00 p.m. off-peak gate period to start.
  • The study found that daytime visits are shortest for trucks that arrive at 3 p.m. Median visit time for trucks arriving between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. was 45 minutes, while for trucks arriving between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. median visit time was 90 minutes, reflecting the 5 p.m. dock worker meal break.

The study also determined that when cargo volumes rebounded in the spring and summer of 2010, the decisions by terminal operators in the two ports to open additional service hours to hold down congestion proved effective. While cargo volumes increased 6 percent from May to October of last year, the study found that visit time decreased 13 percent.

Dr. Val Noronha, President of Digital Geographic Research Corporation that conducted the study, said that a major conclusion of the study is that "there is plenty of capacity in the ports. A surge in truck volume causes just a slight ripple in visit time. A very important aspect, in my view, is that the parties have come together to address this issue cooperatively. That is huge. That communication opens up possibilities in terms of strategies that we can use in the future."