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Trucking trade group to Gov. Newsom: Enforce law on port fees

A trucking trade group claims terminal operators and ocean carriers are profiting from the supply chain crisis plaguing California ports. It is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to enforce a state law to prevent those businesses from charging port truckers excessive container and equipment fees when drivers are unable to return empty containers and grab customers’ loaded ones because of ongoing congestion issues.

The Western States Trucking Association submitted a letter to Newsom on Tuesday, urging him to direct state agencies to enforce Senate Bill 45, which was enacted in 2005. The group called it an attempt to “level the playing field between small trucking companies and large multinational corporations” by not charging per-diem and demurrage fees under certain circumstances, including when terminals are closed during normal working hours, weekends or holidays, or because of port congestion issues.

“The circumstances described in the law are numerous and most directly relate to the current state of dysfunction at California ports,” Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for WSTA, wrote.

“While appointment systems when functioning properly can aid port efficiency, that is often not the case,” Rajkovacz stated. “Add to this dysfunction, the inability to return empty containers or even worse, a trucker waiting in line with an appointment trying to return an empty container being turned away at the gate after hours of waiting [because of a unilateral terminal decision to quit taking a specific steamship line’s containers].”

This renders port truckers unable to haul a single loaded container during their shift since they must have a “dual transaction,” which means exchanging an empty container for a loaded one.

“The cost of this inefficiency is being borne by the trucking companies and independent contractors,” Rajkovacz wrote.

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