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Truckers want the port authorities of Los Angeles and Long Beach to pave the way for a common platform for them to make appointments at any of the 12 container terminals at the gateway complex.

The California Trucking Association and Harbor Trucking Association stressed the benefits of a platform that would help the ports stem the loss of cargo shifting to other US gateways.

Weston LaBar, head of strategy at Cargomatic, a tech-based marketplace, noted that currently each terminal has its own system configuration, so essentially, truckers must navigate 12 different systems.

In a letter to the port authorities the associations point out that a common platform would reduce costs and boost productivity.

Having full visibility of all the terminals would give truckers a clear view of availability and bottlenecks and help them co-ordinate moves accordingly, which would result in less time spent and fewer missed appointments, said Mr LaBar.

He was CEO of the LA/LB Harbor Trucking Association seven years ago when it produced a study on the ramifications of a disjointed booking system. Beyond the 12 terminals, truckers had to consult further websites to check where empty containers could be returned and where chassis were available, etc. Altogether, a co-ordinated move required checking out more than 40 websites, Mr LaBar recalled.

That was the first attempt by truckers to push for a common appointment system, but lack of technology and reluctance from stakeholders turned the effort into a marathon.

Technology is no longer an issue, said Mr LaBar, adding that the Port Optimizer system at LA has unused functionality. However, there is still reluctance among stakeholders to embrace third-party technology after having already invested in their own systems, and some system providers have shown unwillingness to integrate with a third-party platform that competes with their own.

Moreover, the ports’ systems – LA’s Port Optimizer and LB’s Supply Chain Information Highway – are set up as competitive tools for the individual ports, which also gets in the way of agreeing on a common platform, said Mr LaBar.

“LA and Long Beach need to get on the same page,” he added. “From a user perspective, it’s one big port.

He said a unified approach was needed to ensure the port complex remained competitive. Over the past year, the west coast has lost a considerable amount of cargo as beneficial cargo owners routed their traffic through ports on the east coast or Gulf of Mexico to avoid congestion. And by some estimates, 10% or more of that cargo may be lost for good.

Government could also play a role to bring about a common booking platform by incentivising its adoption, said Mr LaBar.

For their part, the port authorities have signalled that they regard a common appointment system as the way forward, but each may hope it would be sitting in its own IT infrastructure.

Compared with seven years ago, the industry is now in a much better position to arrive at a common booking platform, Mr LaBar said. Then, not every terminal had an appointment system, and standards varied.

“We’re further along,” he said. “The technology is there; and the will is there – from ports, cargo owners and truckers.”

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  • Joseph Piros

    February 18, 2023 at 7:07 am

    I believe the main reason each terminal operators are reluctant to join a unified appointment system, is that they consider the data of how much TEU they’re moving “proprietary”.

    The Federal Marine Commission should take the prerogative, and consolidate the terminal’s appointment system into one. The terminals are operating on public government lands, and should follow said order to guarantee efficiency, which is one of the FMC’s duty.

    I am a carrier, but I like to work and work with the backside of the dispatch system. I see first hand all the websites they have to go on, to get the drivers where they need to go. I may have an interesting take, if the FMC can take notice. I’m one of a handful of Deaf drivers that operates in the ports. I have been having difficulties with some of these terminals because of inefficiencies introduced into the individual appointment systems. Ever since LBCT Pier E have instituted their appointment system, their system requires a working complete information entered, that if one part of the appointment is not complete, the appointment won’t be made. That way, every time I, as a driver, enter LBCT Pier E, I have NEVER had any serious problems at the terminals regarding access of their in-gate and out-gate system. Other terminals, their systems does not check for transactions errors, that would flag a clerk to reject the transaction, making communications difficult and transactions become extreme inefficient to the point of taking HOURS to sit at the in-gate or out-gate pedestal just waiting for some help.

    Having a unified appointment system following LBCT Pier E’s example would guarantee that only complete and successful appointments would be created when the transaction is valid. reducing complications and fully automating the in-gate out-gate process, but still involving clerks to visually check the system is making right AI choices for confirmation.

    The Deaf Driver would not have to have communications breakdown at the pedestal, since the transaction is automatically identified by the RFID tag, each truck is required to maintain for access to the terminals.

    The investment to make changes in each terminal’s technology is MINIMAL, as the appointment system server technology is simple and robust enough with robust security to adapt different terminals computer systems, to work with a unified single appointment system operated by 3rd party, and overseen by each port’s authority to maintain neutrality and security of the data.

    Implementing this would end my 8 year battle with the terminals to make the in-gate and out-gate pedestals more accessible for deaf drivers. When the clerk turns off in-gate out-gate automation, it defeats the efficiency it was designed to introduce. If the terminal wants to pace the queue to prevent congestion, a simple script can be introduced to the automation software to pace a driver in-gate 1 per 5 min or 1 per 10 min. etc.

    Come on, lets DO this!! Tell the FMC to take notice!