A Call to Action

“Infrastructure”. What does that word really mean, anyway? It’s a catch-all
that appears in almost every criticism or appraisal of intermodal container
transport, and in every case it amounts to an acknowledgment that
improvements are needed at various points along the supply chain … in the
other guys’ links, however. “Not mine … I’m fine”, is the customary way to
look at the situation.
The International Chamber of Commerce met in Shanghai last week and great
emphasis was placed upon the inadequacy of freight transfer “infrastructure”
serving ports throughout the world and threatening the smooth flow of global
trade. The following points were highlighted:
• Capacity shortage harms world trade;
• Demand for capacity is rising;
• Freight industry stakeholders and public authorities must work together to
expand capacity and provide the necessary funding;
• Action is needed now.
But no one seemed to know exactly where or how to take that action. “They
shoulda stood in bed”, is the way Rip Valenti, the old boxing promoter, would
have assessed that distinguished gathering.
The Washington, DC,-based Waterfront Coalition did a much more creditable
job in its report entitled “The National Marine Container Transportation
System: A Call to Action”, released on May 25th

. In its published
“Summary”, the very first of the report’s 22 stated items was captioned,
“Making harbor trucking a profitable business”. Because it was assigned the
number one position, the entire paragraph bears repeating:
“The harbor trucking industry is vital to the movement of containers from
terminal to nearby distribution facilities and de-consolidation centers where
containers are unloaded. Today, the independent owner-operators, that make
up this industry, are struggling to earn adequate compensation for their
service. This is creating a driver shortage at a time when imports are
skyrocketing. Addressing road congestion and terminal efficiency will go a
long way to increasing the number of daily trips harbor truckers need to
improve the economics that will avert a further shortage of drivers.”
The very last sentence in the final item of the “Summary” placed further
emphasis on the leading item just quoted. “The Waterfront Coalition urges
lawmakers and state highway and transportation officials to locate funding for
quick completion of these projects that will reduce road congestion, improve
working conditions for truckers and address air quality concerns”, it reads.
For once, prominence has been given to what should be the industry’s primary
concern … the independent owner-operator … and Old Rip would have
commended the Waterfront Coalition folks for their perspicacity.
Even the Waterfront Coalition, however, was unable to zero in on a magic
bullet that could bring relief to the many difficulties being experienced along

the supply chain. They’re close, though.