“Truck Driver’s Blues”

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, in her January 28th statement at the Public Meeting on Goods Movement & Ports, stated that she was speaking, “ … in 2 capacities. First, as Councilwoman, I represent the Port of Los Angeles and the communities of Wilmington and San Pedro — communities that have suffered from the effects of port operations. I am also Chair of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority”. Ms. Hahn, therefore, knows what she’s talking about, and she manages to get right to the point. [Unfortunately, because of unsatisfactory conditions in the port communities, Ms. Hahn’s candor requires her to use the word “suffered”, rather than the word “benefitted”.] Here are some more of her accurate observations:

On congestion: “Today, about 12 million containers are passing through our port complex every year. And, that number is expected to triple in the next 20 years. The international trade industry is booming, and we must do something to prepare for this growth. Highways in Southern California are already gridlocked and congestion will continue to worsen, unless we do something now … It is my belief that congestion at our port complex, and on our roads and highways, is the one thing that will drive business out of California.”

On independent truckers: “While addressing you this morning, I wanted to bring another important issue regarding goods movement to your attention. And that is the plight of the independent trucker. These truckers are a vital link in the goods movement supply chain for this entire country. 40% of all our nation’s goods come through our port complex, and without these truckers, our entire economy would be crippled. Independent truckers are currently working unbelievable hours and barely making enough money to feed their families.

“I stand before you today to send a message that if we, as leaders, do not do something to improve the working conditions for our independent truckers, we could face a meltdown in goods movement statewide.”

Allen Clifford, Senior VP of Mediterranean Shipping Co., voiced the same concerns at this week’s meeting of the Raritan Traffic Club. “Things will get worse before they get better,” he said, and he compared port congestion with the futile attempt to park three cars into a two-car garage, closely paraphrasing an earlier description offered by Jean Godwin. In citing the rapid departure of drivers from the industry because of low pay and lengthy delays, Mr. Clifford said, “If it means paying truckers more money, so be it … We have to change the way we do business, not only in America, but in the world.”

In still another address, this one given at the Los Angeles Transportation Club, Stephen Russell, chief executive of the Celadon Group stated that the driver turnover rate averages about 125% annually, and has brought about a 20% reduction in the nation’s truckload capacity.

[Sounds like we’re playing a broken record.]