Baltimore Port Truckers Stage Protest
September 3, 1999
Hundreds of truck drivers who haul intermodal containers at Baltimore's port are boycotting two marine terminals protesting costly delays.
The independent truckers, who are paid per container hauled, have been planning the action for more than a month. The association representing them, the Container and Rail Haulers of America, says long delays at the port mean the truckers can't haul enough containers in a day to make a profit. Truckers say they have been waiting three hours or more for the container to be pulled from the dockyard and mounted on a safe chassis. They also want insurance coverage, a concern sparked by two serious injuries to drivers inside the terminals during the past year.
Beginning Wednesday, members refused to pick up containers that weren't mounted and ready to haul. According to published reports, between 75 and 150 truckers picketed the entrances to the Dundalk and Seagirt marine terminals. Although the port is still open, traffic has been significantly reduced.
The delay problem is a complex one, say port officials. Delays are caused my many things, including under-staffing, a shortage of chassis, and cost-cutting in the marine transportation business.
The Intermodal Group, a group of truckers, dock workers and steamship executives, has offered to work with the new group to end the boycott.
The complaints are similar to those of truckers who recently staged job actions in the ports of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as well as Seattle and Tacoma, WA. The Canadian truckers won an hourly pay deal after a month on strike. Their Northwest counterparts have called a 30-day recess as port officials and others work to find a solution.
The American Trucking Assns. says the unrest at ports is caused by the poor condition of intermodal equipment. "Delays … the cost of tickets and other fines drivers incur as a result of being provided defective equipment … have caused slowdowns and strikes at several major ports and threats of strikes at several others," the ATA's intermodal conference said in comments made to the Federal Highway Administration, according to published reports. The FHWA is in the middle of a rulemaking process that could move the responsibility for the condition of intermodal chassis to maritime interests.