Evan Lockridge, Contributing Editor
Independent truckers serving the Port of Savannah, Ga., are continuing to turn up the heat on long delays at the facility. But there is some question as to whether things have really been slowed down at the port.
On Monday, port truckers, led by the International Brotherhood Of Teamsters, Teamsters Local 728 and the Savannah Port Truckers Association, staged a shutdown at the port over continued long wait times, which they say have only gotten longer in the past week.
"The arrogance and incompetence of the port officials at Georgia Port Authority would be comical if it were not so tragic," said Teamsters Local 728 President Waymon Stroud. "While they tinker with unproven new toys during one of our busiest periods, containers pile up, customers scream and port drivers end up as sacrificial lambs."
The feud centers on a new $4 million computer system that went online October 9. It was designed to speed up turnaround times for truckers, but instead, almost immediately after it went online, trucks started backing up, infuriating truckers. That day, only about 300 trucks were interchanged, but the number doubled the day after, according to a port spokesperson. Drivers at the port have already been angry over the facility's long wait times because they are paid not by the mile, but rather for each load they move.
Yesterday, the port was anticipating around 1,800 containers would be interchanged before the close of business. 2,070 containers were interchanged on Friday, but the facility was open three more hours than usual. This compares to an average of about 2,500 interchanges per day before the new computer system went online. They also say the turnaround time for drivers has been cut from around 8 minutes on Thursday to 4 minutes on Monday
In contrast, Jim Stewart of the Savannah Port Truckers Association says things were slowed down considerably at the facility. He said the shutdown is "the biggest thing down here since the one in 1997." He said 120 trucks and cars were lined up on both sides of the highway outside of the port gates and "doubted if they had 250 or more" trucks enter the facility Monday morning.
Stewart says a lot of the truckers have decided to stay off the job today and possibly the rest of the week. He says the port has refused to talk with the truckers about their grievances. When asked about this Georgia Port spokesperson Patricia Reese told Truckinginfo.com there were no talks scheduled between the Port and the drivers, but said they have met with representatives of the trucking companies who hire the independent truckers
State and local police have been nearby monitoring the situation, which according to Stewart, has remained fairly peaceful.