SC Ports Agency Abandons Trucking Plan As Drivers Form Advocacy Group | Business



The State Ports Authority scrapped plans to hire its own truckers to deliver goods to local train stations following a backlash from haulage companies and drivers who formed a group to advocate in for better working conditions at the Wando Welch terminal in Mount Pleasant.

The shipping agency’s proposal to supplement the availability of private sector vehicles with a state-run fleet has drawn criticism from the industry, with the South Carolina Trucking Association pledging to “stop this before it starts “and the factoring companies complaining in private about tough spa tactics.

At the time, the owner and operator of the Port of Charleston said he needed more drivers to handle the increased volume of imported goods from the busy Mount Pleasant terminal to the Norfolk-Southern rail terminals and CSX Corp. in North Charleston, where the cargo is placed. on trains as part of the agency’s Rapid Rail program.

Last week, the agency said it was finalizing Rapid Rail contracts with the local trucking industry and “hopes this meets our requirements,” said SPA spokeswoman Liz Crumley. About a quarter of the port’s approximately 2.5 million freight containers are transported by rail each year.

Port extends terminal opening hours to reduce delays (copy) (copy)

A group of truckers calling themselves Coalition 18 want to work with the State Ports Authority to address issues such as congestion at the Wando Welch terminal in Mount Pleasant. Deposit

“It’s supposed to be off the table now,” Juan Gordon, spokesperson for the Coalition 18 truckers’ advocacy organization, said of the plan.

The group, which takes its name from the 18-wheeler that transport containers to and from the port, has around 350 members on its Facebook page and describes itself as “a family of truckers demanding change.”

Gordon said the record influx of cargo to the port – resulting from a frenzy of online spending by American consumers during the pandemic – was clogging the Wando Welch terminal and costing drivers money, despite a recent increase of 37 % to $ 85 per container moved. He said truckers could make five round trips a day between the terminal and local train stations, but congestion reduced that number to two round trips a day as trucks sometimes spend hours waiting for freight.

“We just can’t survive with this,” Gordon said. “We can’t keep up with our maintenance and fuel costs.”

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The SPA acknowledged that Wando Welch is exceptionally busy due to the influx of freight straining global supply chains, but added that truck transactions are handled as part of the goal of one hour from the agency, including the time trucks spend waiting in a queue to enter the terminal. Starting July 3, Saturday boarding times at the port’s container terminals have been extended from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. to give drivers more time to move cargo.

“We are experiencing busier times in our facilities – we are producing more volume than usual and this creates challenges on the job sites and for the hauliers,” said Barbara Melvin, SPA’s COO, during of the agency’s meeting on June 22. board meeting.

The port handled a record 128,622 containers of all sizes in June, an increase of 44.5% compared to June 2020 and 13.8% more than in June 2019.

“The supply chain is just crowded right now,” Melvin said. “Hauliers are finding that this is reflected in the longer turnaround times during these busier months.”

Coalition 18 aims to bring other issues to the attention of SPA, Gordon said. Among them is a clean air policy that prevents trucks from idling for long periods of time, forcing drivers to turn off their engines in hot weather and in the midst of heavy traffic and air freight movements.

“You have drivers sitting in a cab over 90 degrees beside a 60,000 pound box overhead,” Gordon said. “No one wants to be in this situation for an extended period.”

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The group had scheduled a work stoppage on July 12 to draw attention to its concerns, but the SPA said operations were proceeding normally. Gordon said it was difficult to get some drivers and trucking companies to speak out because “they don’t want to be blackballed at the port,” so Coalition 18 was formed to bolster the numbers.

Jim Newsome, President and CEO of SPA, has repeatedly emphasized that the trucking community is a critical part of the port’s success, and Gordon said SPA is committed to working with Coalition 18 to address their concerns.

Bill Stern, the port authority’s chairman, was part of a meeting the agency held in June with motor carriers. He said he was impressed by the willingness of both sides to work to resolve the issues.

“They are our partners,” Stern said of the truckers. “The issues that we have, Barbara and Jim have dealt with and how we’re going to solve them and recommendations on how we can work together. It was wonderful to take responsibility for some of the things that we don’t do so well. and trying to improve them.on them, but always focusing on our great organization, how we all work together and how we are all on the same team trying to do what’s the right thing. better for the state of South Carolina. ”

Reach David Troglodyte at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_


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