February 9, 2015 4:55 PM, EST

California Truckers Ask IANA to Intervene in Delay Fee Dispute

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News

California truckers, stung by millions of dollars in delay-related costs, have asked the Intermodal Association of North America to rule that port carriers should not be required to pay those fees accumulated since November.

The California Trucking Association and the Harbor Trucking Association were joined by American Trucking Associations’ Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference in the request. IANA administers the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement, or UIIA, that governs the exchange of containers between truckers and ocean carriers.

The truckers argued that the terms of the force majeure clause in the UIIA agreement should excuse them from paying the ocean carriers a daily fee known as per diem when boxes can’t be returned within the mutually allowed free-time period.

The carriers’ letter noted the impact of labor slowdowns and gridlock at the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland ports during contract talks between the Pacific Maritime Association, whose members are UIIA participants, and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

The West Coast port terminals that didn’t unload any vessels over the weekend resumed operations today. There were no announced developments about the talks. Last week, management said a lockout is possible as early as Feb. 10, and the union said a settlement was “extremely close.”

“Motor carriers have been charged millions of dollars in per diem this year due to congested conditions that were beyond their control,” the letter said.

IANA President Joni Casey told Transport Topics the trade group is reviewing the issues raised in the letter.

She also said truckers have filed 18 claims to challenge the per diem fee, and that none of those cases has been decided yet.

“UIIA provides any participant the opportunity to use binding arbitration procedures conducted by a panel of industry peers, which assures the parties due process in resolving disputes regarding charges,” she said.

The motor carriers highlighted situations such as ocean carriers and terminal operators telling truckers to hold boxes outside terminals, making it impossible for carriers to return equipment in the allowable free time, but still charging the truckers the per diem. 

“It is simply unconscionable to charge supply chain partners container per diem for delays caused by one’s own operational issue.”

“We are hopeful that the UIIA will issue clear guidance,” the letter said, adding that “a failure to address this obvious inequity would call into questions the UIIA’s role as a fair and impartial arbiter.”

PMA also issued a statement saying that a union demand to give labor the ability to fire arbitrators who rule against them “threatens to sink contract talks”.

There was no immediate union comment in response to the PMA statement.