Federal Maritime Commission receives objections to PierPass changes by host of shipper associations

The National Retail Federation, The National Industrial Transportation League, and the Agricultural Transportation Coalition all voice their objections

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With considerable fanfare last month, PierPass announced plans to overhaul the model used by its OffPeak program for truck traffic mitigation at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Industry analysts noted that this is designed to replace the current congestion pricing model with an appointment-based system that uses a single flat fee on both daytime and nighttime container moves.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And perhaps that’s part of the problem. Widespread shipper resistance to the idea is now being voiced to the Federal Maritime Commission, which has yet to approve the change.

The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) has filed comments noting that that it generally does not oppose terminal truck appointment systems, which can help manage truck congestion at marine terminals.

“However, our members have concerns regarding the propriety of the proposed container fee, which eliminates the incentive for importers to move their cargo during off-peak periods and, thus, may result in an increase in congestion during peak terminal operations—contrary to the very purpose of the original PierPass program,” the letter states.

The NITL letter also expresses concerns about how the container fee proceeds will be used and whether the appointment system will be able to accommodate the truck traffic.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) opposes this amendment, too, and is urging the FMC to disapprove it.

Furthermore, NRF officials are advising the FMC to initiate further investigation into whether it is appropriate for marine terminals to impose fees on entities with whom they have no commercial relationships.

There may be no greater critic of the PierPass scheme than the man representing the interests of America’s farmers and growers, however.

Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) told LM in an interview that it has become “a public relations nightmare” for the San Pedro Bay ports.

“Why has the fee been steadily increasing since 2005, even when night gates are not operating, or entire terminals are idled as carriers consolidate operations? So where is the money going?” Freidmann asks.

Meanwhile, he notes that another major West Coast ocean cargo gateway has taken a more measured approach to clearing up trucking congestion.

“The Port of Oakland came up with a sensible, collaborative solution to truck congestion by working with its stakeholders to create ‘night gates,'" he says.

As reported in LM, An innovative strategy to alleviate congestion on San Francisco Bay freeways, bridges, and cargo-centric arteries by extending nighttime operations was implemented by Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT) two years ago. According to the port, the solution has exceeded all expectations.

More truckers now visit the Port of Oakland at night than at any time in its 91-year history.  Oakland’s largest marine terminal noted that it’s conducting between 1,500 and 2,000 daily truck transactions after sundown.  That’s up from 800 a year ago.

The AgTC expects to gain greater clarification on the PierPass issue when it stages its annual conference in Tacoma, WA on June 12-15, says Freidmann.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [ protected]

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