All parties point to excessive dwell times at warehouses in the region as the primary cause of the equipment dislocations, and an issue the entire supply chain must address.
The shortages, caused by a spike in imports coupled with extended equipment dwell times at warehouses in the region, should work themselves out in the next month if the import surge wanes. It should be noted that equipment imbalances always seem to surface when cargo volumes spike owing to seasonal factors, or when retailers rush shipments to get ahead of import tariffs, as they did last year.
Drayage operators said they are struggling each day to secure sufficient chassis to move containers to and from the 12 container terminals in the ports of LA-LB, and marine terminals do not have enough chassis available for the delivery of import containers to truckers.
Whenever the demand for chassis varies from what would be considered the average needs of the transportation community throughout the year, chassis shortages occur. However, it seems now that the issue is a chassis dislocation problem rather than an actual shortage of equipment in the region.
Chassis dwell times at warehouses and manufacturing plants have ticked up in recent weeks, which keeps the equipment out of circulation. According to the Pool of Pools, chassis dwell times at warehouses and manufacturing plants have ticked up in recent weeks, averaging more than five days, with four days or less considered to be necessary to meet equipment needs in Southern California. The three large IEPs — DCLI, TRAC Intermodal, and Flexi-Van Leasing — operate the Pool of Pools in Southern California.
The chassis dislocation problem is also magnified when terminals place restrictions on the return of empty containers, or when truckers are unable to secure appointments needed to book dual transactions, both of which are occurring today.
Yet another issue contributing to the chassis problem is the number of idled chassis needing repair. The IEPs are repairing chassis as quickly as possible, and they are also bringing chassis into the region from elsewhere.
LA-LB experienced similar issues in late 2018 and early 2019 at the beginning of the US–China trade war when retailers fast-forwarded shipments to get ahead of import tariffs.