Port of Oakland phone app tells truckers about waits at port

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Port of Oakland phone app tells truckers about waits at port

Photo Courtesy of Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT

Photo Courtesy of Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT

Photo Courtesy of Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT

George Avalos,
East Bay Times

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An old-line business, the Port of Oakland, is using one of the world’s newest technologies, an app that helps truckers cope with busy cargo gates at the shipping hub, the port said Wednesday.

“This could definitely be helpful and would be worth it,” said Bruce Gill, owner of Union City-based Bay City Express, a trucking firm.

The app is available on the Google Play store for Android phones and the Apple store for the iPhone, the port said.

“There’s no more guesswork for truckers picking up or delivering cargo in Oakland,” said John Driscoll, the port’s maritime director. “Now they can plan their days with real-time information.”

This software application arrives at a time when the Port of Oakland has undertaken a far-reaching transformation in a quest to operate more efficiently.

The port has been opening gates at night and on weekends to help unclog backlogs of cargo being delivered or picked up by truckers.

The app tells truck drivers how long it takes to enter terminal gates and calculates how long drivers must wait to complete transactions. The free app for truckers has gone live, and is called DrayQ and can be phone on the app stores under the DrayQ name.

The times for gate waits and transactions appear on mobile phone screens that are akin to the sign boards on freeways that tell people how long to get to a downtown area or an airport or a city.

The new technology could provide truckers and dispatchers with a precise measure of how long a terminal transaction takes. And if it’s too long, drivers can plan around slow periods.

Cargo owners and terminal operators also will be able to compile data to determine if container shipments are being processed efficiently. They can also use the data to alter operations.

“This industry is the oldest thing on earth, and we always have to find brand new things to make it work,” said Michael Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland.

The developer of the DrayQ app, Virginia-based Leidos, has hired people to hand out flyers to trucker drivers at the East Bay port. About 150 people have signed up for the app in the first few days.

“This is the first port in the country to use this technology,” Zampa said.

The app uses Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi technologies to measure truckers’ progress through the East Bay cargo hub.

“The technology gets a ping from every cell phone for a vehicle that is going through the port,” Zampa said. “The display is very much like the freeway signs that show how long to get to a destination.”

One reason that the technology is very much needed is the lines and the delays at the Oakland port really haven’t improved in recent years and months, multiple trucking executives said Wednesday.

“Six or seven years ago, the lines were always moving at the port,” Gill said.

The current situation contrasts greatly with the recent past. “Now, delays are the new norm,” Gill said. “There is always a line, whether the port is busy, or not busy. A lot of times we don’t have a choice, we have to wait in line.”

At present, truck drivers at the Oakland port often use a Yahoo group that helps them match up cargo that must be transported with equipment available for transport.

“If there is an app that could streamline things at the port, it would be what we need here,” Gill said.