The first major revision of U.S. container trade laws since 1998 becomes law while drawing praise from the trucking industry.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA). In this time of contentious politics, the vote was bipartisan and overwhelming, 369-42, to adopt a version passed easily by the U.S. Senate in December. The President signed the bill into law in mid-June.
The bill dealing with supply chain issues and international maritime commerce drew support from a host of trade associations, including the American Trucking Associations and the Harbor Trucking Association.
Harsh realities of hauling containers into and out of the ports drove that trucking industry involvement. Maritime containers ride on intermodal chassis. However, ten foreign-owned ocean shipping companies, organized into three cartels, dominate maritime commerce. These cartels often require intermodal truckers to lease chassis from a specific provider and won’t accept an equivalent chassis from another provider. If the preferred provider cannot supply a chassis, the trucker cannot complete its work order and move the container.
Things go downhill from there. These same ocean carriers and marine terminals assess exorbitant detention and demurrage charges to intermodal truckers when containers are not moved or returned on schedule. This happens even when the delays are caused by the ocean carriers, by the chassis providers, or simply by the lack of chassis and container storage at the ports.
OSRA addresses these intermodal trucking issues by expanding the powers of the Federal Maritime Commission. OSRA shifts the burden of proof on the reasonableness of detention and demurrage charges from the trucker to the ocean carrier. FMC also receives increased funding under OSRA to study intermodal chassis supply and positioning – the trigger points of many detention and demurrage issues.
Along with many other provisions of OSRA, the FMC is now in the position to address any anti-competitive ocean carrier and port practices which some claim have harmed the U.S. supply chain and intermodal truckers.
Meanwhile, in another maritime supply chain development, the state legislature in Louisiana sent SB 477, to the governor, which allows longer and heavier loads into and out of Louisiana ports.
The Louisiana legislation creates a special permit for the hauling of 20-foot shipping containers on an 83-foot truck combination, with a gross combination weight up to 140,000 pounds and axle weights of 40,000 pounds per tandem axle and 60,000 pounds per tridem axle. The permits would authorize travel on designated state and U.S. highways in Louisiana, but not on interstates highways there. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed the bill into law.