Currently there is a chassis back-up at the terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach (LA-LB). Import volume is at a lull after the Chinese New Year rush so the fact that there are still chassis issues is a red flag.
In March of 2015 the three main chassis providers created a “pool of pools” in order to allow drivers to use the same chassis for multiple loads rather than having to return and swap for different customers. Terminal operators and port authorities have tried to amend the issues that have arose due to this grey pool but it is clear further action needs to be taken.
The issues affect both beneficial cargo owners and truck drivers in that when drivers arrive to pick up a container there are not sufficient chassis available to perform the service. Also, when drivers are done with the chassis they have to take it to the drop off location for the grey pool which is a service beneficial cargo owners are not paying them for.
It is calculated that 44,000 to 46,000 chassis are currently taking up space at the 13 container terminals in LA-LB. The normal on-dock chassis count is 34,000. The issue is the spread of chassis availability among all the terminals is not aligning with demand so equipment providers need to make an effort to reposition the equipment so there is sufficient chassis available at each terminal.
Four of the 13 terminals hold 43.5 percent of the total chassis inventory but these four terminals only serve 27 percent of the demand. The remaining 56.5 percent of the inventory is held by the other nine terminals who serve 73 percent of the demand. The equipment providers do contract with drivers to reposition the chassis but their efforts are not enough considering the mega ships that are calling LA-LB.
The terminals need to prioritize this issue as bigger ships are going to be calling fewer terminals once the new ocean alliance structure takes effect April 1, 2017. One suggestion is to stop storing chassis at marine terminals but keep them at outside locations along the LA-LB harbor. The main concern for the LA-LB management team is to keep up with the changes caused by the new alliance structure and the operational challenges that will be associated. The chassis issue is one of many that will need to be addressed.