Federal Security Rules Causes Delays, Uncertainties for Truckers

Federal security measures recently enacted at U.S. ports are making it harder for truckers to make timely deliveries. But what might be bad news for the trucking industry could be a boon to local manufacturers.

The Department of Homeland Security rolled out the new security regulations in July to prevent terrorist attacks. DHS workers are screening cargo ships and trucks that enter the ports, meaning it takes more time to clear a load and creates some logistical uncertainty.

"It adds a little bit of time, but if [DHS workers] find something that interests them then you're just going to sit there," said Jay Marshall, a trucker from Sturbridge, Mass., who stopped at Secondi Brothers Travel Center in Milford on Wednesday.

Truckers generally get paid by the mile, so when they aren't moving they're not getting paid. Trucking companies can also lose money if they don't deliver items by a certain date.

Marshall said he's been picking up loads at New Jersey and New York ports five days a week for seven or eight years. But, like a lot of truckers at Secondi's, he blames the worst delays and uncertainties on Connecticut's traffic congestion and highway construction.

For Maine resident Mike Rush, those are certainties.

"The first time I came through Connecticut was May of 1971 and I-95 was under construction then and it's still under construction," said Rush, who's been driving a truck since 1968.

Christopher Gallo, the director of manufacturing industries services for accounting firm Nishball, Carp, Niedermeier, Pacowta & Co. of Shelton, said delays in the supply chain could present an opportunity for local manufacturers over imports.

Many manufacturers in the state have adopted new production processes that allow them to cut inventory and costs, relying on speed and their ability to get materials and parts immediately from their suppliers, rather than holding those items in a warehouse.

But Gallo said many of the larger local factories use foreign-made parts in their production, even though there are smaller Connecticut companies capable of doing the same work. Foreign companies usually win contracts because their prices are lower, but those considerations might go out the window if the parts get stuck in the ports, he said.

"Clearly [transportation problems] make it more difficult for manufacturers to adopt just-in-time techniques," Gallo said.

While there's opportunity for manufacturers, Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said he thinks the trucking industry will soon see even more delays.

According to Riley, DHS wants to do even more thorough searches of all cargo coming into the ports, which could add even more time to the delivery process.