Federal Intervention on Ownership and Jurisdiction Issues Requested in Chassis Inspection Debate

Since the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) ratified their contract, there has been growing concern among freight transport stakeholders over what they consider to be illegal chassis inspections. A recent JOC article reported on how chassis leasing companies and California truckers are asking federal agencies to act quickly to prevent what they say are illegal chassis inspections by the ILWU at U.S. West Coast ports.

While the contract ratified by the PMA and ILWU states that ILWU port mechanics have the authority to inspect and repair chassis before they are released, it excludes trucker-owned chassis and doesn’t specifically address leased chassis. As a result, ILWU members are reportedly stopping drivers and requiring proof of ownership before releasing the chassis.

The California Trucking Association states that this process is further slowing cargo turn times and is an added burden to drivers. This comes at a difficult time for the cargo freight drayage industry as companies are making decisions about whether to purchase, rent by the day, or lease chassis.

According to Curtis Whalen, executive director of the American Trucking Association’s Intermodal Council, the PMA has no legal standing to grant the ILWU the right to pull over and inspect trucker-controlled chassis at marine terminals.

Federal regulations make Intermodal Equipment Providers (IEPs) responsible for supplying equipment that is “roadable.” This means it has been thoroughly inspected and is in safe operating condition before the interchange with the trucker.

Recently, the shipping lines have transferred the chassis fleet responsibilities of the IEPs to chassis leasing companies. This leaves a grey area where some chassis leasing agreements make the trucking company responsible for keeping chassis “roadable” while others make it the chassis leasing company’s responsibility.

The ILWU has hundreds of longshoremen on West Coast ports who are responsible for chassis inspections. The lack of clear direction in the contract regarding owned vs. leased chassis has resulted in the longshoremen requiring truckers to show proof of chassis ownership. The ATA says that the delays and cost increases for truckers and motor carriers will only get worse, which is why they have asked the Feds to step in.

April Uhlenburg
April U

April has been working with Penn Intermodal’s Sales and Operations teams to educate clients on the benefits of leasing chassis for bulk liquid storage and transport since 2012.