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Bring On The Trucks

HALIFAX, N. S. - Drivers no longer face the dreaded line-ups on the Bayne Street service road, nor the pile-up for paperwork in the clerk's office, thanks to a $4.4 million upgrade to the Fairview Cov...


MORE EFFICIENT: The Port of Halifax truck marshalling yard, seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this picture, has received some needed upgrades.
MORE EFFICIENT: The Port of Halifax truck marshalling yard, seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this picture, has received some needed upgrades.

HALIFAX, N. S. – Drivers no longer face the dreaded line-ups on the Bayne Street service road, nor the pile-up for paperwork in the clerk’s office, thanks to a $4.4 million upgrade to the Fairview Cove Container Terminal truck marshalling area.

The Port of Halifax, Cerescorp Company, which operates the Fairview Cove Container Terminal, and the federal government shared the cost of the project. Container traffic has been down since the marshalling area was completed last summer, but when it picks up again carriers are expected to have no problems getting in an honest number of daily turns.

“Now we can process a lot more trucks – three times the volume we have now and not have trucks backed up. The terminal can do more volume in eight hours now than it used to be able to do in 12,” says Calvin Whidden, vice-president of the Fairview Cove Container Terminal.

“Before, we could be there for three to four hours. Now it is as little as 15 minutes. When it gets busy again in the summer you won’t be half a day getting a turn done,” says Mike Berrigan, owner of Guysborough Transfer in Dartmouth. He has 22 trucks and 90% of his business is container traffic.

“Right now we are guaranteed between four and five turns a day. It is safer over there. Everything is better.”

“It has streamlined the paperwork,” adds Noel Foley, logistics and sales coordinator, Lighthouse Transport Services in Dartmouth.

However Rob Pittman, terminal manager of Consolidated Fastfrate’s Dartmouth Terminal, comments, “I guess, as a carrier, my socks have not been knocked off by it. It hasn’t really jumped out. If there has been an improvement it has been modest.”

Pre-upgrade, the terminal processed trucks in batches of nine – all the marshalling area could hold. Drivers would park, turn off their rigs and pile into the clerks’ office with fistfuls of paperwork.

“The clerks would key the information into the computer system manually for the containers – two moves per truck. It would take 20 minutes (per group of nine), as fast as we could go with paper. The truckers were all trying to get directions. It was chaos,” Whidden recalls.

By opening hour at 8 a. m., 45-50 trucks could be backed up right out onto Kempt Road. They would be cleared by noon, but over the lunch hour the conga line could reappear.

Now drivers park in a 44-truck, four-lane waiting area, and are processed through four pedestals using optical character recognition cameras manufactured by San Diego, Cal.-based SAIC and pedestals and a processing system supplied by Long Beach, Cal.-based LA King.

This is how the new process works: A waiting truck gets a green light to pull ahead to the processing pedestal.

Cameras take pictures of the container and container numbers. An in-ground scale weighs the container and truck.

By the time the truck stops at the pedestal, the clerk has the container’s weight number and a video of it and it has been electronically released by the shipping line. There is no paper exchange, the driver stays in the truck and gets a receipt for that delivery printed at the pedestal.

Then they pick up the phone and tell the clerk which container they are picking up. The clerk keys that into the computer.

The pedestal spits out another receipt instructing the driver where to get that container.

The trucker drops off their container and picks up the new one. Cameras photograph the outbound container and match it to what the driver was supposed to pick up, and the truck leaves through one of two exit pedestals.

“Originally the shipping line wanted a one-hour turnaround time (in-bound gate to out-bound gate). Our goal was 45 minutes, but we are consistently at 30 minutes. There is a line-up at eight o’clock and one o’clock but 40-60 minutes later there is no line-up. There is never any spill-over onto Kempt Road anymore,”Whidden says.

And if that isn’t enough to make you want to be a trucker, the new administration building has commodious washrooms on the main floor that drivers can access 24 hours a day – a vast improvement over begging for a sit-down on the longshoremen’s thrones, and a luxury for truckers sleeping over in the marshalling area.

The bigger picture is that the Port of Halifax is working to grow its truck-based transload and distribution business, according to Michele Peveril, manager, corporate communications and public affairs, Port of Halifax.

“There is about one million square feet of distribution and transload facilities in the area. For those truck companies to be competitive, we need to provide quick turn-around. This value-added service really makes trucking important in the supply chain.”


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