U.S. Container Port Traffic Expected to Grow Dramatically

Both the trucking and shipping industries are undoubtedly intertwined. These industries rely on one another in order to keep freight moving, and the American economy and the American consumer also rely on these industries working together to get goods where they need to be on time. One of the biggest challenges in logistics, however, is when container ports experience a rapid influx of imports while the trucking industry struggles to keep up.

In these types of situations, containers are often left waiting in port while truckers get stretched further and further to try to meet demand. Unfortunately, it looks like the trucking industry is about to be hit by this perfect storm scenario as the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates recently released a study that shows imports are expected to rise dramatically in short order.

COVID-19 Recovery Partly to Blame

Part of the reason for this is that consumers have more confidence in retail spending as the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing in the wake of vaccine availability. Likewise, states are loosening restrictions on in-person shopping and retail hours-of-operation, meaning more shoppers will likely be heading to retail outlets in the near future.

While this is good economic news for pretty much everyone, including intermodal carriers, it’s also a cause for concern regarding bottlenecks at some of the nation’s busiest container ports. The Federal Maritime Commission is currently investigating and evaluating ports across the country to determine what can be done to keep imports flowing smoothly. This comes as truck drivers have staged multiple protests outside the Port of Baltimore to shed light on severe delays and wait times that span hours to receive cargo.

Possible Changes to Regulations on the Horizon

What this means for intermodal carriers is that there will likely be changes coming soon to best practices and possibly regulations. Carriers that operate on land and sea may also face changes to detention and container policies in an effort to to speed up the shipping process.

What this means for truckers is, hopefully, a more efficient process by which to on-board containers and move them quickly. In practice, however, it’s likely that kinks will need to be ironed out, at least in the short term, before things begin to flow smoothly again.