Mostly owner-operators responsible for their own expenses

Unfortunately, the drayage business is in a world of hurt. Base rates for drayage services have been stagnant for about a decade, according to drayage executives. In an extreme example of rate hemorrhaging, Greg Gorno, owner of All Points Transport, a Dearborn, Mich.-based drayage agency of the Evans Network of Companies, said his agency receives less money today to haul two empty 20-foot containers round-trip between Detroit and Toledo, about 120 miles in all, than it did in 1980. The only break for All Points is that it generates more revenue today from fuel surcharges than it did back then, Gorno said.

Noncompensatory rates have a negative cascading effect through the pipeline. Drivers, mostly owner-operators responsible for their own expenses, are generally not well paid. To make matters worse, increasing congestion at the nation's ports forces drivers to wait for hours to either pick up or drop off their loads, cutting into their productivity and earning power. Drivers that are paid by the load can stew for two, four, and sometimes six hours at a marine terminal to offload a box, take on another one, and leave the facility. A study of 1,600 trucks serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's busiest port complex, from October 2012 to May 2013 found that 20 percent of all truck moves took more than two hours; as a general rule, waits of more than one hour are considered unacceptable both from economic and environmental standpoints. "The system suffers from a lack of fluidity," said Ken Kellaway, president and CEO of RoadOne IntermodaLogistics, a Randolph, Mass.-based intermodal company whose services include port and rail drayage.

The proliferation of megacontainer ships capable of handling up to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers is likely to exacerbate terminal congestion because of longer loading and offloading times. In addition, tougher federal rules governing drivers' hours of service have made driver queuing an even costlier proposition as there are now fewer productive hours in a day than before.

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