An Exhausting Problem

The trucker, the perennial whipping boy, is being kicked around again. All along the supply chain, it seems that whenever a breakdown of any kind takes place, the truck driver will get a lion’s share of the blame. Rarely, if ever, does anyone acquit the trucking system and accept sole responsibility for defective and inefficient cargo movement. It’s happening again. In spite of the fact that the LA/Long Beach port community is about to experience a container onslaught of nightmarish proportions, an inundation that will undoubtedly produce unimaginable and unmanageable traffic problems, all attention and legislation has been aimed at pollution-causing vehicles. This website recognizes the deadly consequences of air pollution and has no intention of downplaying the hazard, but losing sight of the source of the pollution, the actual cause of this perilous condition, only compounds matters and defers the ultimate solution.

Jim McKenna, president and chief executive of the Pacific Maritime Association, addressing a group at a luncheon meeting in Washington said that the “peak season”, normally taking shape in July, appears to have begun already. In 2004, in fact, the “peak season” had already advanced to April, and with the foreknowledge that all estimates have projected 2005 volume increases to be somewhere between 12% to 18% higher than 2004 volumes, isn’t it about time port officials paid attention to Linda Chick’s criticism when her audit report said that the port needed more strategic planning in order to improve its efficiency? If pollution was at an intolerable level in 2004, it was created by unanticipated increases in volumes within the container ports, and not by the vehicles that have been required to shoulder the burden of delivery. The many proposals and legislative efforts intended to address air pollution problems, however, have all been directed at the besieged trucking industry. It’s as though everyone (except Linda) is intimidated by the indelicacies of port operations and has avoided actual confrontation with the confusing hubbub. It’s a lot easier to assess quiet highway traffic conditions.

Everyone seems to be on a treadmill. Something has to be done and no one denies it. But what? Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, who earlier reminded her constituents that, “a lot of these things sounded good,” but the community needs more funds at “the bottom line”, advanced legislation last Thursday that would encourage trucking companies to retire older trucks that emit the most exhaust. The hoped-for, but questionable, $ 100 million appropriation she requested would do little to lower current pollution levels, and with truck port trips increasing from 31,000 per day in 2005 to 91,000 per day in the year 2010, the situation is clearly hopeless. Officials are on the wrong track. Polluting trucks aren’t the source of the problem, they’re one of the problems caused by the source, and the actual source was isolated by Linda Chick when she indicted the port for its “lack of vision”. Ms. Chick released the results of her audit on December 3rd, almost five months ago, and there’s still no evidence of strategic planning or improved efficiency. In referring to last year’s fiasco, Jim McKenna admitted that, “It was a wave of volume that overwhelmed us”. That wave had grown progressively bigger each year, and this may be the year someone in authority finally realizes that the primitive thinking that sustains primitive cargo operations must give way to a more logical method of storage, retrieval and delivery of intermodal containers. That’s where we come in.