Innovative “night gates” strategy is easing congestion at Port of Oakland
More truckers now visit the Port of Oakland at night than at any time in its 91-year history.
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An innovative strategy to alleviate congestion on San Francisco Bay freeways, bridges, and cargo-centric arteries by extending nighttime operations was implemented by Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT) two years ago. According to the port, the solution has exceeded all expectations.
More truckers now visit the Port of Oakland at night than at any time in its 91-year history. Oakland’s largest marine terminal noted that it’s conducting between 1,500 and 2,000 daily truck transactions after sundown. That’s up from 800 a year ago.
“Night operations have transformed the port,” said Executive Director Chris Lytle. “No more 8-to-5 work days…we’re too busy for that.”
Meanwhile, nearby TraPac marine terminal has been testing night gates, as well. Drayage drivers use the gates for everything from picking up loaded import containers to dropping off refrigerated exports.
Port officials said that the difference is dramatic, noting that night gates have curbed daytime congestion even though Oakland’s containerized cargo volume broke records in 2017.
It has also reduced truck traffic on city streets and freeways and ccelerated shipment deliveries to cargo owners. Furthermore, it’s enabled truck drivers – mostly independent operators – to transport more containers daily. In today’s “gig economy,” that means higher regular earnings.
So what are the implications for Uber freight and on-demand drayage pickups?
Port spokesman, Mike Zampa, told LM that he can’t project where that might lead.
“But anything that opens the operating window wider and eases the peak-hour logjam will improve supply chain efficiency,” he adds.
According to OICT, truck transaction times have averaged 60-to-90 minutes since night gates began. In the past, a driver could wait 2-to-3 hours to conduct business. The terminal said night gates account for about 30 percent of its daily transaction volume.
And the Bay Area's global shippers are digging it.
“We’ve spread out the truck traffic and improved the drivers’ turn times,” said Jim Rice, General Manager at Oakland International Container Terminal. “Night gates have allowed us to operate nine shifts a week with a domino effect: there’s less traffic and congestion and it’s easier for cargo owners to pick up their shipments.”
Rapid cargo movement is essential at marine terminals. That’s the critical supply chain intersection where ships, trucks and trains hand-off containerized shipments.
Oakland International Container Terminal is the second-busiest marine terminal in the U.S. It handles 60-to-70 percent of all containerized cargo in Oakland. By stretching its workday, the terminal has helped Oakland improve overall operating performance, the Port said.
“Oakland International Container Terminal has really led the charge with all of its investments and most importantly adding the night gates,” said Peter Schneider, Vice President with T.G.S. Transportation Inc., one of the major motor carriers serving the Port. “It has helped transform not only Oakland, but many other ports.”
Indeed, even the mega gateways of Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach have been considering extending their night operations
Such a strategy does not come without cost, however. To cover labor expenses, Oakland International Container Terminal assesses a $30 fee on all container loads for financing night moves.
So far this has not been much of a pain point say some prominent shippers. One telling testimonial was provided by Kevin Bulger, Chief Operating Officer at Apex Maritime, one of the largest cargo shippers in Oakland: “It’s the best $30 I ever spent,” he said.
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]