Off-dock depot aimed at improving NY-NJ chassis availability

By Joseph Bonney, JOC.com

A new chassis depot near the Port of New York and New Jersey’s GCT-Bayonne terminal is a step toward improving chassis availability in the East Coast’s largest port, TRAC Intermodal CEO Keith Lovetro said.

TRAC has has about two-thirds of the approximately 30,000 chassis in the port. This week the company moved its GCT-Bayonne chassis depot to a nearby 12-acre depot operated by the Columbia Group.

“The first trucker who used it had a 15-minute turn time,” Lovetro told JOC.com during an interview at a Containerization & Intermodal Institute conference in Houston.

TRAC is the first user of the new depot, which includes a covered repair facility, storage capability, electronic data interchange technology, about 600 feet of queue space, and an express lane for exits of “bobtail” trucks without chassis.

Moving its depot off-dock will provide TRAC with mechanics assigned specifically to its chassis, and will help the leasing company stay current with M&R work, Lovetro said.

When the work was performed on-dock, mechanics frequently were pulled away to repair refrigerated containers or other more urgent tasks. When they eventually were assigned to routine chassis repairs, it often was at night or weekend overtime rates, Lovetro said.

Flexi-Van Leasing plans next month to move its GCT-Bayonne depot to a new off-dock location near the Columbia facility TRAC is using, said Philip V. Connors, Flexi-Van’s executive vice president.

TRAC previously worked out an arrangement for a dedicated supply of International Longshoremen’s association labor at Maher Terminals, in the port’s largest container terminal area. Lovetro said the company is studying a possible third depot in the port area.

Maher and Columbia are signatories to the ILA contract. TRAC and the two other main chassis lessors, Flexi-Van and Direct ChassisLink Inc, are not contract signatories but have pledged to continue using ILA labor for repairs.

The three leasing companies have been working with other port interests to establish a centrally managed “gray” chassis fleet that would allow truckers to drop and pick up containers anywhere, without having to return different lessors’ chassis to different terminals.

Lovetro said the gray pool is “99 percent-plus” complete. He said the only missing piece is agreement on wording of the legal document confirming the labor arrangements, something that’s been under discussion for weeks.

Having a gray pool would alleviate many of chassis-availability problems that contribute to congestion at terminals, Lovetro said. But he said moving chassis depots off-dock is a step forward in advance of the gray pool.

“It didn’t make sense to say, ‘Let’s not do anything until we have the gray pool,” he said. “The whole purpose of a chassis depot is to make chassis available and to get the truckers in and out quickly.”