Trucking companies that suffered heavy losses during the 10-day lockout of West Coast ports say they are being stung a second time by shipping lines, which are charging rental fees for equipment the truckers say they could not return on time.
The so-called per diem fees can amount to $44 a day for a container or the truck chassis that carries it, said Stephanie Williams, vice president for legislative affairs with the California Trucking Assn. The equipment is owned by the shipping lines and lent to trucking companies for five days to allow time for delivery and return.
The tab can quickly escalate for companies with several hundred containers and chassis on hand.
Williams said truckers have had difficulties returning equipment to terminals for more than a month because of labor disruptions that slowed processing times and because of the lockout, which ended Oct. 9. In recent days, she said, some truckers have waited in line five hours to return empty containers, only to be turned away from the terminal gate because the yard already was too congested.
"That's like Blockbuster Video taping up their video drop box and then saying, 'You owe us money,' " she said.
Williams singled out Taiwan-based shipping line Evergreen as one of the worst offenders. However, Bob Kleist, a consultant for the company, said Evergreen has waived per diem fees that built up during the 10-day lockout, except for equipment that already was late before it began.