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Southern California port truckers, crippled by extensive delays, intend to seek the first-ever federal hours-of-service rule waiver for the sector in a bid to free up clogged cargo at the two largest U.S. ports. "The situation is dire right now," said Mike Johnson, president of the Harbor Trucking Association and operations manager for Port Logistics Group.

He told Transport Topics the waiver from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required because truckers need more time to move delayed cargo. Johnson explained that cargo is unloaded faster from ships at Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach than it can be moved through terminals. Chassis shortages, not enough dockworkers and cargo surges from larger vessels add to congestion.

Some shippers and brokers have advised of delays of at least 10 days. "There is a most compelling waiver case that can be made in the Southern California region," said Curtis Whalen, executive director of American Trucking Associations' Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference. He said the waiver request covering 90 days could be filed within two weeks.

Whalen stressed that congestion-plagued port truckers are similar to others who have been granted waivers. Because of the extensive waiting time at port gates and inside the terminals, those truckers today are in a similar situation to others who have been granted FMCSA waivers, he said. In those cases, waivers were granted for extended workdays, such as 16 hours on duty on a temporary basis to respond to crisis situations.

Whalen compared port truckers with a power company or agricultural workers who also don't spend much of their work time driving.

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