Co-Owner Cargo Services
A few times every year we make the rounds visiting our container trucking company friends in Chicago, a city that’s among the busiest cargo hubs in the country. We do this to gain their valuable insight on what’s happening with the railroad ramps, chassis depots, and the driver situation. This past week we visited with six trucking companies around Joliet, IL and Harvey, IL.
The Burlington Northern railroad and Union Pacific railroad have intermodal rail ramps around Joliet. Those ramps handle containers moving to and from the United States west coast ports, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Seattle. The Canadian National railroad’s primary ramp is in Harvey, where containers move to and from the Canadian west coast ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
Our trucker friends report that ramp operations are “workable” with in-gate container pickup taking around an hour as long as there are no disruptions in rail ramp operations. Chassis depots are working okay, usually taking about a half-hour to get in and pick up a chassis. However, if the chassis needs minor repairs it could take well over an hour to get the chassis fixed and out of the depot. This helps explain why sometimes it takes the driver three to four hours just to pick up your container. It’s due to chassis maintenance delays and rail ramp operational delays. And that’s when the weather is good around Chicago.
Our friends report there currently are enough drivers in the system and the industry has adjusted to the electronic logs put in place in January 2019. Couple that with a slack Chinese New Year shipping season, and we have normal service conditions in the New Year.
One last point: our trucker friends and drivers are good people. They work hard and put in long hours working what is probably the toughest job in the international supply chain—getting your containers to you on time. They care about their jobs and care about their customers. So please thank them when you get a chance.