A small group of truck drivers gathered outside the Port of Baltimore’s container terminal Wednesday morning to protest continued pickup delays that they say port management is ignoring to save money.
Fewer than a dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk outside Seagirt Marine Terminal, holding signs and waving at truck drivers to honk their horns as the vehicles moved in and out of the entrance gate to deliver and pick up shipments.
It was the third time since 2019 that the truckers protested the same issue. The protesting drivers, most of whom own and operate their trucks, say they sometimes wait for as long as eight hours to pick up one container of cargo, but they get paid by the load, not the hour.
“We get paid by the box,” said John Richardson-Allaire, owner of Turnpike LLC.
Any delays, he said, eat into the drivers’ bottom lines, and they blame port management.
“I love my job. I got my own truck two years ago. I love what I do. I have a bunch of kids. I got a family I can provide for, but one thing about my job that I hate is coming here. I hate this place,” Richardson-Allaire said. “We’re the only ones asked to work for free. It comes down to management.”
Truck drivers, particularly the independent ones like Richardson-Allaire, are at the bottom in the system when it comes to the cargo shipping industry, and there’s no place to file grievances, protesters say.
Ports America Chesapeake, which manages Seagirt Marine Terminal under a 50-year, $1.3 billion deal inked in 2009 with the Maryland Port Administration, touts its container numbers from ship to shore, said protester and truck driver Kirt Elsey; but from shore to door — that’s another story.
“If that ship sits out in the water over a certain amount of time, they have to pay thousands of dollars to the ship,” but this doesn’t apply to truck drivers, Elsey said. “We’re getting screwed from the top all the way down to the bottom. If Ports America would hire more people to work the yards, we’d be in and out.”
Protesters say Ports America Chesapeake keeps the cargo ships moving but truckers are left out to dry.
“All I want is to get in and out. That’s all I want and have us being serviced properly,” Elsey said. “They’re deliberately doing it to save money. We used to be able to turn boxes in the yards.”
Bayard Hogans, vice president of Ports America Chesapeake, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Maryland Port Administration spokesman Richard Scher directed a request for comment Wednesday on the trucker protest to a Tuesday news release from the state agency.
The release says the East Coast has been experiencing a significant shift in vessel calls and volumes over the past several months.
Breaking News Alerts
“This increase in volume has put pressure on all aspects of our supply chain, workforces, and region, leading to significant increases in dwell times, import and empty container volumes, and equipment shortages. The Port of Baltimore has benefited from this shift in cargo with additional volumes, services, and new rail business,” the port administration says in the release. “During this time, Ports America Chesapeake and the Maryland Port Administration remain focused on accommodating current and future cargo demands at Seagirt Marine Terminal.”
The protesters, holding signs that read, “All hours worked. All hours paid.” They plan to protest all day Wednesday and Thursday.
Many of the trucks honked in support of protesters but continued moving in and out of the port quickly Wednesday morning. Protesters lamented that they’ve “never seen this many trucks go in and out of this port so fast ever.”
Seagirt Marine Terminal is Ports America Chesapeake playground, the protesters said, so the truck drivers have to play by management’s rules; otherwise, they can get banned, sometimes without being offered a reason, protesters said.
“They’ve got all the power. There’s nothing you can do. We’ve got no one to file grievances with,” Richardson-Allaire said. “They are bullying us, and there’s nothing we can do.”