Surging Import Volume Creates Havoc in the Port Straining Intermodal Truck Drivers and Operations

Denise GillinInsurance, News

By Mike Edwards, CIC, for

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, intermodal trucking has gone on a roller coaster ride that has taken them to the highest of highs and lowest of lows. When the global lockdown first went into effect, imports fell due to most of Asia closing their ports and ceasing exports in an all-out effort to contain the virus. While U.S. port operations remained largely open, container volumes fell as there was simply less freight to import into the country. However, this trend quickly dissipated as the economy shifted from serviced-based to retail-based due to the growth of e-commerce and consumers purchasing more and more goods from online vendors. “U.S. containerized imports from the world totaled 2.29 million TEU in January, an increase of 12.2% from January 2020,” according to PIERS, an IHS Markit trade activity tracker. “Imports from China totaled 994,431 TEU, up 15.5% year-over-year. Imports from Asia in 2020 accounted for 67.4% of total US imports from the world, and imports from China accounted for 42.1% of total US imports.”

Port congestion is at an all-time high. Drivers may wait hours only to be turned away. This is forcing intermodal truckers to increase sign-on bonuses and paid advertisements in a bid to compete with each other over qualified drivers.

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