Unlike his or her irregular but regulated hours on the road, a typical trucker’s day at a Southern California port promptly starts at 7 a.m. and must end by 5 p.m. A trucker’s workday at the Ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach begins westbound on the I-710 or I-110 freeway or the CA-47 highway.
Largely from these traffic arteries, between three and five westbound trucks per minute deadhead and an equal number pull outbound cans into the ports. Their relentless assaults on the Vincent Thomas, Gerald Desmond, and Commodore Heim bridges produce a continual grind from their near-constant down- and up-shifting. Occasionally a car horn or a trucker’s air horn, sometimes a ship’s whistle, interrupts the constant drone of these worker bees. About once a week, a tractor-trailer overturns at one of the ports’ intersections, adding danger to the organized chaos.
Queues wax and wane at Hanjin Way, Terminal Way, Navy Way, Pier Street, and other port gates. Drivers and owner-operators edge up to the security gates to present their delivery bills of lading and drivers’ licenses to the port security personnel. Hours pass. Thermoses of coffee empty. Packets of Kentucky’s Best flatten. Finally, their trucks bobtail, and they’re ready to couple with the outbound cans corresponding to their pick-up bills of lading.
Between six and ten westbound trucks per minute begin an eastbound journey on the 710, 110, or 47. Practically all of these tractors pull trailers, a constant and visual reminder of the foreign trade deficit.