Photo by John Schreiber.

The Port of Los Angeles recorded its fifth monthly cargo record of the year in July and has made progress on clearing a backlog of ships as it grapples with the impact of Assembly Bill 5, port officials said Wednesday.

The port processed 935,345 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) — an inexact measurement of cargo capacity — in July, which was 2.5% higher than the 2019 record for that month. It was also 8% higher than the port’s five-year July average.

The number of ships waiting at anchor has decreased 88% since January, down from 109 to 13. There are 2,000 containers waiting more than nine days for trucks, which is down from 32,000 units last October.

The average dwell time for truck-bound containers is four days, which is closer to more traditional times, according to Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Overall, the port has moved 6.3 million TEUs this year, on pace with last year’s record amount.

Seroka said consumer demand remains high, with consumers taking advantage of falling gas prices to spend on other goods. Retail numbers in July were flat, though imports are expected to ease in the coming months.

Officials expressed concern over the impact of AB 5, which reclassifies some independent contractors in California as employees and has put some 70,000 truckers in the state — who might not all want to be considered employees — in a state of limbo.

Last month, independent truckers blocked highways around Southern California in protest of AB 5.

Matt Schrap, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association, said he anticipates losing truckers to other industries. He said he’s already heard of out-of-state carriers who have stopped doing business in California, and other fleets looking to relocate to states like Texas.

“It’s hard to imagine that the 70,000 owner-operators that are estimated to be impacted by AB 5 will not have some overall impact on overall driver supply here in California and potentially nationally,” Schrap said.

It is uncertain how the law will be enforced, according to Schrap. While the intent of the bill was to protect workers, Schrap said the impact is “moving away from worker protection” and “into something different.”

Trucks carry two-thirds of the cargo that moves through the Port of Los Angeles, according to Seroka. He added that the long-term impact of the law on the port remains to be seen.

“We’ve got to continue to give (truckers) the service that they require to do their jobs and get the number of runs necessary for these good middle-class jobs to pay out,” Seroka said.

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