How the port truck driver strike impacts the Inland Empire warehouse economy

Source: Daily Bulletin

A truck driver strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is contributing to the slowing of the flow of goods from ships to the warehousing economy of the Inland Empire, according to local experts and officials.
The strike was expanded this week with protest organizers targeting three more companies they accuse of unfair labor practices. Truckers accuse several trucking companies of improperly classifying them as contractors, not full-time employees, to minimize wages and benefits.
B.J. Patterson, head of the Ontario-based Pacific Mountain Logistics company, and chairman of the Inland Empire Logistics Council, said the trucking dispute, which involves a small percentage of drivers and trucks out of about 16,000 coming from the ports, contributes to other issues that have led to the number of overall trips by truckers from the ports to the Inland Empire being shaved in half.
Among the major issues: Massive ships carrying much larger volumes have begun operating in recent years, dumping larger amounts of containers in a single area of the port, leading to a slowdown moving the containers onto trucks, he said.
“This is a major slowdown in freight coming out of the port,” Patterson said. “We’re already short (driver) capacity, and now we’re short more capacity. The ports are already congested and (the strike) is making that worse. You’re seeing goods that were supposed to be ready for Christmas that are not going to make it.”
The decision by shipping companies to shift the servicing of truck chassis — the wheeled platforms that support the containers on trucks — to private firms, has also led to a shortage of the chassis for the logistics industry, contributing to the problem, Patterson said.
“The chassis issue is the bigger one and the reason it’s the bigger issue is it’s cutting down the efficiency of ‘throughput,’ ” said John Husing, chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. “That’s what’s causing these ships to be tied up and not be unloaded. You’ve got truckers running around loose finding container chassis.”
Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for Port of Los Angeles, said the labor protest by truck drivers has led to minimal disruption at the port.
“There are a handful of protestors that have been protesting since Friday,” Sanfield said. “Our terminals have remained open and cargo is flowing. The protestors have been very cooperative at the gates, and it’s been a minor disruption. That’s not to say we don’t have congestion at the ports, but it’s mostly unrelated to the trucker issue. There are more than 10,000 trucks that come to the port complex … and so far the truck companies that have been targeted for picketing represent about 500 of the trucks.”
Art Wong, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said roughly $1 billion a day, or $400 billion worth of goods a year, come through both ports.
“There are as many as 15,000 drivers and you’re talking about a few dozen on strike,” Wong said.
Paul Granillo, head of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership business advocacy group, said the instability of the ports, whether because of a backlog of container processing, or because of labor disruption, is a major concern for the business interests of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“Union and employer interests are for the ports to be functioning,” Granillo said. “Any type of disruption at the ports has the potential effect of loss of jobs. For people who are importing the goods into the United States through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the No. 1 issue they need is a sense of security that they know exactly how long it’s going to take to move their goods and get to the final destination. I don’t see an upside to labor disruptions that might cost those workers their jobs because in the long run, shippers are going to choose other ports of entry into the United States.”
Drivers from QTS, LACA Express and WinWin Logistics joined the ongoing labor action on Monday, said Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters Union, which is backing the drivers. Representatives for LACA Express and WinWin declined to comment Tuesday, and QTS could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Neil Nisperos

Neil covers the economy for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, The Sun and the Redlands Daily Facts. Reach the author at or follow Neil on Twitter: @ReporterNeil.