Port haulage sector under pressure as costs mount
The Port Trailer Haulage Association (PTHA) says it under pressure to remain viable as transport rates and delays at the port continue to plague its members.
Compounding this, the association said frustrated drivers are leaving in droves for better opportunities outside the industry. Outlining the possible impact of these challenges, the PTHA, in a release, said “the trucking industry is a vital pillar of the Jamaican economy that most people undervalue as a major contributor to national development”.
“It is to our detriment if we continue to ignore the fact that the vast majority of our manufacturing, industrial, retail and other commercial enterprises are dependent on road transport for the movement of goods and services across Jamaica. If the trucking industry was to stop rolling, the Jamaican economy would grind to a halt,” it continued.
The association’s general manager, Ricardo Valentine, told the Shipping Industry page that the increase in fuel costs, cost of spare parts, increase in transport inflation and the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar were all contributing factors to the industry’s diminished state.
These costs can no longer be borne by the truckers, the release stated. “In the past, the truckers found it extremely difficult to get reasonable haulage rate increases from their clients, but in light of the mounting challenges on the terminals and in the face of the continued devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, the weekly increases in fuel cost and the soaring cost of spare parts, which are all imported from overseas, the port haulers who have absorbed these costs over the years have no choice but to increase their haulage rates to customers, and will consider the implementation of delay surcharges if there is no improvement in the slow’ turn time’ on the port.”
The recommended minimum destination rates, which took effect in March, will see Corporate Area deliveries from the port of Kingston beginning at US$136 on the lower end, while haulage fees from the port to Montego Bay start at US$1,373.
The PTHA said while there is dialogue at the highest level with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), slow turnaround times at the port continue to affect productivity. “Truckers, in the past, were able to receive and deliver between eight to 10 containers per truck per day. Today, receival or delivery that should reasonably be realised within 25 to 45 minutes oftentimes takes two to three hours, leading to truckers only handling between three to four containers per truck per day,” the release said.
Valentine said the Truck Appointment System (TAS), which was introduced to make booking arrangements with terminal operators for the delivery or collection of containers, is a good tool to “streamline the traffic flow to and from the ports,” but there are some associated challenges. These, he noted, are primarily related to rules at the terminals, including one which prevents truckers from delivering an empty container at the time they are collecting a full container without a matching appointment for that time period. “If they are not able to get an appointment for the same window, they would have to make two trips to the terminal in order to complete both transactions.”
Coordinating deliveries and collections are often difficult, the release revealed, as requests for the former usually come from importers and exporters with little notice – ranging from a day to an hour. “Truckers are having challenges getting appointments same day, which will cause delays, and our clients could be required to pay detention charges to the shipping lines as a result.” Valentine said having greater appointment flexibility for double moves by truckers would assist in alleviating this problem.
Additionally, he provided other suggestions, which he said could help with some of the difficulties facing truckers at the port. These include faster turnaround times, which can be achieved with quicker vetting at the terminal entrances; faster loading at the interchange zone; and pre-scanning or more modern scanners which do not require truckers to leave their vehicles.
Valentine also recommended that a more effective and active committee – which includes the PAJ, Shipping Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Customs Agency, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, among others – be established to tackle the issues being faced by users of the nation’s ports.