“The problem is many ports still rely on antiquated systems,” Herpich says. “But if we can overlay some new technology, and get that information into our legacy systems, we can still improve the process that causes congestion like we saw in 2020 and 2021.” A clear rst step is to tech-enable drayage carriers through a transportation management system like the one PortPro offers. “Seventy-ve percent of drayage carriers use spreadsheets, so the rst thing we need to do is introduce software that allows them to automate manual and tedious tasks, such as tracking containers, creating rates, dispatching and paying drivers, and managing documents,” Mecca says. Similarly, new tech solutions are focused on providing the real-time drayage visibility that is often lacking, such as through the kind of chassis GPS tracking that TQL offers. “GPS devices are generally great tools that have helped improve many aspects of logistics,” Byrne says. “Beyond real- time location, GPS can also provide compliance and safety information based on data such as speed and impact.” WIHFUL THINKING Integrating technology at ports is a difcult prospect. Each port manages data differently, meaning providers must adapt to the individual port’s approach. “It’d be wishful thinking to think we can all get on one system together,” Herpich says. Drayage simply has characteristics that make adapting comprehensive tech solutions challenging. “From a big picture perspective, some efciency aspects of drayage could benet from technology,” Byrne says. “This hasn’t happened in a material way yet because there are typically about ve parties involved in one drayage move: shipper, drayage carrier, freight forwarder, steamship line, and port. True integration would require all to make a sizable technology investment.” Drayage seems poised to benet from overall growth in port infrastructure
Some third-party providers oer import and export drayage transportation solutions for containerized cargo arriving to or departing from U.S. ports.
“Drivers are such an important part of what makes drayage companies run,” Mecca says. “But autonomous functionality and features inside vehicles that allow a more comfortable driver experience and increase efciency is important and many companies are working to innovate on it. “As more autonomous vehicles hit the road, becoming a truck driver will be more attractive,” he adds. Drayage efciency depends on other components in the intricately interconnected supply chain. For instance, labor challenges could mean that warehouses will not always be open to receive containers. The result is that drayage efciency gains at the port could be lost at that link in the chain. Although the market has cooled considerably in 2023, drayage today is more widely viewed as a critical component of the supply chain. That is leading to promising efforts to improve the eld from a cost and service perspective. “More companies are diving into their full supply chains and paying more attention to drayage,” Herpich says. “Where in the past a lot of companies looked mostly at full truckload or less- than-truckload shipments, and bypassed the domestic drayage part, they’re not any longer.” n
investment. “Port infrastructure was at the heart of the supply chain crisis,” Byrne says. “Many ports, from those handling the highest tonnage to more moderate volume, have announced investments to make facilities more efcient, handle higher volumes and operate greener. “Projects include developing land to expand existing port acreage, dredging to allow bigger berths and constructing inland off-dock container support facilities,” he adds. More drayage carriers will adopt sustainable models and green practices, such as through the increased use of electric vehicles (EVs), to pay closer attention to their carbon footprints. “The nature of frequent, local runs could be appealing to EV producers,” Byrne says. “Idling that occurs while trucks wait to load and unload containers and the empty miles they incur bringing containers back to port all seem ripe for procedural or technological intervention.” The rise of automation and its integration into port operations will be a key issue to watch. Drayage often is cited as a eld where autonomous vehicles could one day be a possibility. Mecca says autonomous vehicles will be a part of drayage’s future, though not fully autonomous vehicles.
88 Inbound Logistics • April 2023
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