West Coast Chassis Issues Likely Heading to Court

The determination of who pays the cost of safety inspections for chassis at West Coast ports may need to be addressed in legal action over coming months. The inspections, which are causing delays at already congested port facilities along the West Coast, impact only chassis leased by motor carriers. Chassis that are owned by motor carriers were specifically excluded from the inspection clause under the labor contract negotiated by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) earlier this year.

Under the current agreement, an eight-point safety inspection of chassis is performed by ILWU workers. The costs of the inspections are billed to the chassis leasing company, not the broker, forwarder, or shipper. However, these charges come separate from the hidden costs of delays due to the slow process of inspecting the many leased chassis in use at ports. Most of the 80,000 chassis used at Southern California ports, for instance, are leased to trucking companies and are subject to the inspections under the ILWU-PMA agreement.

The legal action will most likely be led by chassis leasing companies, and will contest the legal authority of the workers to subject equipment to a separate roadability inspection. Such a third-party inspection exceeds the legal requirement that an intermodal equipment operator must provide a safe operable chassis to a trucker at the time of equipment interchange. Should a lawsuit be filed, either the American Trucking Association with several major port trucking organization, or the Institute of International Container Lessors will likely take the lead.