Trucking Groups Urge Reservation Changes at Southern California Ports

A container is loaded onto a flatbed truck at the Port of Long Beach
A container is loaded onto a flatbed truck at the Port of Long Beach. (halbergma/Getty Images)

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Harbor Trucking Association and California Trucking Association are urging the leadership of the two major Southern California ports to create a pilot program for a single, interoperable, complexwide appointment system for drayage and other trucks.

In a Jan. 25 letter to the executive directors of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, HTA says the movement of freight into and out of the ports can run smoother, with lower costs and more productivity across the 12 container terminals at the San Pedro Bay complex.

“There is not a single interoperable system to locate appointment availability for future bookings in the [port] complex. Nor is there central location to aggregate appointments once they have been booked,” Matt Schrap, CEO of HTA, and Eric Sauer, CEO of CTA, said in the letter. “With money being available to help jump-start digital infrastructure deployments, there is now a unique opportunity to take these investment dollars and create something that will have a lasting impact on productivity and transparency in the harbor complex.”

Both leaders said that currently trucking companies must navigate as many as seven different reservation systems to operate at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Eric Sauer of CTA (left) and Matt Schrap of HTA

California Trucking Association CEO Eric Sauer (left) and Harbor Trucking Association CEO Matt Schrap 

“HTA and CTA applaud Port of Los Angeles leadership for recent statements on future efforts to develop a single appointment system for marine terminals within POLA jurisdiction. We are also encouraged by the recent work of Port of Long Beach leadership to develop technology for enhanced transparency and efficiency at the port complex,” the letter said.

“For a single appointment system to be successful, it is critical that all marine container terminals in both POLA and POLB agree to share data into an interoperable system. The terminals would also need to agree on common and consistent business practices to provide a workable mechanism for motor carriers to plan and effectively distribute capacity,” the letter also stated.


Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka (left) and Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka (left) and Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero 

n theory, the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach seem to be open to the idea. An official with POLA said Executive Director Gene Seroka has been advocating for this system for several years, and Long Beach counterpart Mario Cordero has made similar statements.

However, Tom O’Brien, executive director for the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University-Long Beach, said that while in general it’s thought to be a good idea, it ultimately is up to the ports’ marine terminal operators to move on this proposal.

Tom O'Brien


“Based on our research, clearly this would add value to the supply chain and it would eliminate some of the challenges truck drivers face, using the many different platforms,” O’Brien said. “Partly this is a function of the technology; everyone wants their system to be the standard, and there have been concerns about proprietary information being shared. But I think there is a general sense now that there needs to be more innovative solutions to getting truckers appointments, and it would help the fluidity in the system as well.”

Host Seth Clevenger speaks with Torc Robotics CEO Peter Vaughan Schmidt about the realities of autonomous truck technology and how they fit into the freight transportation industry. Hear the program above and at

Second of a three-part series on autonomous vehicles. Hear Part I herePart III coming Feb. 2.

O’Brien said that in the aftermath of the pandemic and the challenges the ports have faced in the past three years with a dramatic increase in containers, now more than 20 million, there needs to be greater efficiency as volume is expected to continue to grow.

“There is a need for solutions, and they are looking for them,” he said. “There is every reason in the world to work together to make this system work better. The two ports do work very well together, but they are competitors. But I think this is an area where the two ports can take a leadership role across the country.”

He added that improving the efficiency of the supply chain and at all ports has gotten the attention of the Biden administration and national supply chain envoy Stephen Lyons.

Stephen Lyons


“This can serve as a really tremendous carrot and I think the administration is taking an effort to really be helpful,” said Lyons, a retired Army general. “Here, with problems tied to congestion, with the challenge coming from underdeveloped and inefficient appointment systems, the federal government is certainly looking to find ways they can facilitate things.”

HTA and CTA said in their letter it is time to move forward.

“This effort has the potential to be a game changer for the port complex. The undertaking itself would be unprecedented and a clear signal to the supply chain ecosystem that both ports are committed to implementing operational enhancements that will result in increased productivity,” they said. “The world is watching the supply chain, and the time to act is now. It is possible that there will not be a better time to embark on this voyage.”

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