Port of Virginia launches truck reservation system to handle rising volumes

Date: Friday, March 2, 2018
Source: American Shipper

 The Port of Virginia today officially launched the first phase of implementation for its new motor carrier appointment system, dubbed the “PRO-PASS Trucker Reservation System (TRS),” in an effort to improve overall cargo efficiency and help the port handle increased volumes.
   The first phase of the PRO-PASS TRS rollout will take place at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT), which will be followed by Virginia International Gateway (VIG) some time this summer.
   In this initial phase, motor carriers calling NIT between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, must have a reservation, and the port has said it plans to add more mandatory hours once the trucking community adjusts to the new TRS.
   “This is a twenty-first century tool that holds benefits for motor carriers, cargo owners, logistics companies and our terminal operations team,” John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA), said of the TRS. “This system allows us to manage flow at the gates, it creates efficiency for our terminal operations teams and for drivers, it provides greater visibility to cargo owners, and it is a planning tool for us and everyone that moves their cargo by truck.”
   The implementation comes as the port is seeing continued growth in cargo volumes during the first seven months of its fiscal 2018 year, which began July 1.
   Port of Virginia terminals have handled 1.67 million TEUs so far in fiscal 2018, according to the most recent data from the mid-Atlantic port, an increase of 4.4 percent compared with the prior year period.
   On a fiscal year basis, volumes at the Virginia Inland Port (VIP) and Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) were up 4.6 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Total barge traffic has risen 8 percent, truck volumes 8 percent, vehicle units 16 percent, and breakbulk tonnage 2 percent, while rail volumes have declined 1 percent.
   January container volumes, however, slipped 3.5 percent year-over-year to 220,534 TEUs, as loaded exports fell 15 percent to 76,294 TEUs and loaded imports slid 2.8 percent to 104,150 TEUs. Throughput at VIP and RMT grew 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively, while truck volumes grew 2 percent and rail and barge traffic fell 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
   The port attributed the January decline in cargo volumes primarily to inclement winter weather throughout the month, most notably a Jan. 3 blizzard that “impacted the movement of freight well beyond the Norfolk Harbor: there was disruption and delay to logistics and supply chains, rail and truck movement, vessel calls and to the overall flow of intermodal traffic along the U.S. East Coast and in parts of the Midwest.”
   “Our fiscal-year volumes are ahead of last year, but our January cargo totals were less-than-forecast,” said Reinhart. “Snow in Virginia is a reality this time of year and two lost workdays in the early part of January as the result the blizzard are reflected in our totals. We have restored service and are in positive territory for early February.
   “Our growth will continue in FY18,” he added. “But, additional volumes coupled with construction at VIG and having taken 33 acres of container yard at Norfolk International Terminals out of service are straining operations and presenting challenges to our delivery of service and doing so at a cost. Our gate productivity at VIG is not up to standards, particularly for our motor carrier partners, and we are focused on addressing and improving service.”
   In addition to the new truck reservation system, VPA is in the midst of a $375 million expansion of the NIT’s south berth that will increase annual container handling capacity 46 percent by 2020.
   “Container volumes at the Port of Virginia are growing and it’s a trend that will continue. So as we begin to bring more capacity online, we must ensure flow at our gates throughout the entire day,” said Reinhart. “Rush hour is not efficient, but spreading out the truck volume across the day is, and we’ve developed an innovative, fair, easy and useful way of accomplishing that.
   “Creating consistency and efficiency in our delivery of service from hour-to-hour is the goal,” he added. “We must prepare now for what is to come.”

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