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30 Best Trucker Tips: Port Freight Pick Up

By
Brian Smith
May 16, 2024
18 minutes
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30 Best Trucker Tips: Port Freight Pick Up
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Table of Contents

Do you want to manage your trips better and fill up your trailer with high-paying loads? 

1. Book the earliest appointment of the day and arrive 1-2 hours early. 

If you book the earliest appointment available and arrive 1-2 hours early, you'll have a head start on your competitors and maximize your efficiency. Let's say the terminal opens at 8 AM; aim to arrive between 6 and 7 AM and secure your place in line. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances of getting a jump on the competition and avoiding any potential delays. The difference of arriving an hour or more early, could mean several hours of delay avoided so you can maximize your trips and pick up more freight.

Book the earliest appointment of the day and arrive 1-2 hours early. 

2. Avoid scheduling pickups around lunch and breaks to avoid congestion.

Here's another valuable tip to enhance your efficiency: avoid scheduling pickups during break times. Most terminals open their doors at 8 AM, and it's common for the first break to occur around 10 AM, lasting for approximately 30 minutes. Lunch break usually starts around 11:45 AM and concludes around 1:15 PM. Savvy carriers understand the importance of steering clear of these time slots when planning their pickups. The optimal strategy is to schedule your appointment either early in the morning, around 8 AM, or later in the afternoon, around 3 PM. By avoiding scheduling pickups during lunch and break times, you'll significantly reduce the risk of encountering congestion and delays. Streamline your operations by keeping this tip in mind for a smoother and more productive experience at the port.

Avoid scheduling pickups around lunch and breaks to avoid congestion.

3. Be prepared to contact dispatch and re-schedule if there are delays. 

Always be prepared to reschedule if your appointment time is no longer feasible. Instead of panicking, take immediate action by contacting your dispatch and exploring the possibility of securing a later pickup time. If rescheduling isn't an option, stay in line and proceed to the pedestal as planned. Sometimes, with a stroke of good luck, the crew on duty will understand the circumstances behind your late arrival and accommodate the loading of your freight. Remember, being adaptable and proactive in communicating with your dispatch can help navigate unforeseen delays and ensure a smoother experience at the port. Stay prepared, stay flexible, and keep your operations running smoothly.

Be prepared to contact dispatch and re-schedule if there are delays.

4. Bring your own chassis in good condition, using the port's can delay you an hour or more for a mechanic examination. 

Truckers gearing up to pick up freight at the port, here's a time-saving tip you don't want to miss: bring your own chassis. By doing so, you can bypass the need for a mechanic stop, which can quickly turn into a significant delay if you're relying on a chassis provided by the port. Due to liability concerns, terminal mechanics must thoroughly inspect these chassis, resulting in wait times of 30 minutes to an hour. However, if you come prepared with your own chassis in good condition—ensuring correct tire pressure, working lights, and no red flags—you can completely avoid the mechanic stop altogether. This simple step can save you valuable time and keep your operations running smoothly. So, remember to bring your own chassis and eliminate unnecessary delays caused by mechanic examinations at the port.

Bring your own chassis in good condition, using the port's can delay you an hour or more for a mechanic examination. 

5. Double check booking and appointment details before approaching in-gate pedestal and after freight is loaded, verify container numbers match and are sealed correctly. 

Here's a crucial trucker tip for a smooth experience: perform self-checks to avoid delays. Before approaching the in-gate pedestal, double-check all appointment details, ensuring the correct time, booking, and appointment numbers. Don't waste time waiting only to be turned away for a small mistake. After loading your freight, take a moment to confirm the container's identity, verifying matching container numbers and proper sealing. Investing a few minutes in these checks can save hours of trouble later on. Use your waiting time proactively to catch and address errors promptly by contacting dispatch for accurate information. By being diligent in these self-checks, you'll streamline your pickup process and minimize potential delays at the port.

Double check booking and appointment details before approaching in-gate pedestal and after freight is loaded, verify container numbers match and are sealed correctly.

6. Understand you are subject to random screenings of your vehicle and its contents.

When picking up freight at the port, it's important to be aware that random screenings of your vehicle and cargo may occur. These screenings are conducted to ensure safety and security within the port environment. While they can result in minor delays, it is crucial to cooperate and remain patient throughout the process. Ensure you have all the necessary documentation readily available, maintain a clean and organized truck, and follow any instructions provided by port authorities. By understanding and respecting the need for random screenings, you actively contribute to a safer and more secure port experience for everyone involved.

Understand you are subject to random screenings of your vehicle and its contents.

7. Prepare for long delays, stay calm, and don't forget your lunch and water.

When picking up freight at the port, it's essential to get your mindset in the right place for a smoother experience. As a drayage driver, be prepared for potential challenges such as long lines and extended waits, while maintaining a sense of calm. It's human nature to cope better with adversity when we have mentally prepared ourselves for the worst while remaining optimistic. Keep in mind that honking may momentarily relieve frustration, but it only adds tension and slows down the process for everyone involved. Take the advice of experienced owner-operators, who recommend starting your workday with positive energy, staying composed even in the heat of the moment, and don't forget to pack your lunch and water. By adopting this proactive mindset and remaining calm, you'll navigate any delays or setbacks with resilience and professionalism, ensuring a more successful and satisfying experience at the port.

Prepare for long delays, stay calm, and don't forget your lunch and water.

8. Have original copies of all your credentials with you.

Truckers picking up freight at the port, it's crucial to ensure you have all the necessary credentials readily available. Before heading to the port, make sure to bring original copies of your valid driver's license, Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and SeaLink®. These documents play a vital role in verifying your identity and granting you access to the port facilities. By having the original copies of all your credentials with you, you'll be well-prepared and avoid any potential delays or complications during the pickup process. Remember, it's better to be proactive and have your credentials on hand than to risk being turned away or encountering unnecessary hurdles at the port.

Have original copies of all your credentials with you.

9. Have a valid Radio Frequency Identification Tag for anywhere access control is required.

If you’re picking up freight at the port, it's essential to have a valid Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag with you, if required. RFID tags are used for various purposes, including personnel tracking, identification, and access control. These tags play a crucial role in ensuring smooth operations and security within the port facilities. It's important to have a valid RFID tag for any areas where access control is required. By having the proper RFID tag, you'll have seamless access to designated areas and contribute to maintaining a secure and efficient environment. Prioritize obtaining and carrying a valid RFID tag to streamline your experience and avoid unnecessary obstacles when picking up freight at the port.

Have a valid Radio Frequency Identification Tag for anywhere access control is required.

10. Have proof that your trucking company is registered with the Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement.

It's crucial to have proof that your trucking company is registered with the Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement (UIIA) when you’re picking up freight at the port. The UIIA is a vital agreement that governs the interchange of intermodal equipment between trucking companies and equipment providers. It ensures compliance with safety and operational standards, contributing to a more efficient and secure intermodal transportation system. By having the necessary documentation to demonstrate your trucking company's UIIA registration, you'll facilitate smoother interactions and access to facilities within the port. Remember, carrying proof of UIIA registration is essential to avoid any potential delays or complications when picking up freight.

Have proof that your trucking company is registered with the Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement.

11. Have proof of your trucking company's valid insurance and credit with the steamship lines.

It's crucial to have proof of your trucking company's valid insurance and credit with the steamship lines you are hauling for. These documents are essential for ensuring compliance and establishing a level of trust and financial responsibility with the steamship lines. Valid insurance coverage provides protection in case of any unforeseen incidents, while maintaining good credit demonstrates your trucking company's financial stability. By having the necessary proof readily available, you'll streamline the pickup process and instill confidence in the steamship lines regarding your ability to fulfill your contractual obligations. Make it a priority to carry proof of valid insurance and credit to avoid any complications or delays when picking up freight at the port.

Have proof of your trucking company's valid insurance and credit with the steamship lines.

12. For import pickups have your freight release form, container number, and bill of lading.

Truckers picking up import freight at the port, it's crucial to have the following documents in order to ensure a smooth pickup process:

  1. Freight release form: This document serves as proof that the freight is ready for pickup and has been released by the appropriate authorities. It's essential to have the freight release form in your possession to proceed with the pickup.
  2. Container number: The container number is a unique identifier assigned to the specific container carrying your import freight. It is necessary to have this number readily available to locate and retrieve the correct container.
  3. Bill of Lading (BOL) number: The Bill of Lading is a vital document that provides details about the cargo being transported, including the shipper, consignee, and the terms of the agreement. The BOL number helps verify the authenticity and ownership of the cargo and is required for the pickup process.

By ensuring you have your freight release form, container number, and Bill of Lading (BOL) number, you'll be well-prepared to smoothly complete import pickups at the port. Remember to keep these documents organized and readily accessible to avoid any unnecessary delays or complications during the pickup process.

For import pickups have your freight release form, container number, and bill of lading.

13. For empty pickups have a valid booking number, dimensions of the container, and steamship line.

Truckers picking up empty containers at the port, it's essential to have the following information to ensure a successful pickup process:

  1. Valid booking number: A booking number is a unique identifier assigned to the specific shipment or container. It is necessary to have a valid booking number to confirm your eligibility for the empty container pickup. This number allows the port authorities to locate and release the correct container for you.
  2. Dimensions of the container: Knowing the length, height, and type of the container you need to pick up is crucial for proper planning and allocation of resources. This information helps ensure that the right container is assigned to you and that it aligns with your transport requirements.
  3. Steamship line: Identifying the specific steamship line associated with the empty container pickup is important for logistics coordination. Each steamship line has its own procedures and requirements, so being aware of the correct line ensures that you can comply with their guidelines and instructions.

By having a valid booking number, the dimensions of the container, and the name of the steamship line, you'll be well-prepared for empty pickups at the port. Remember to have this information readily available to streamline the process and avoid any unnecessary delays or confusion.

For empty pickups have a valid booking number, dimensions of the container, and steamship line.

14. If applicable, for export delivery or drop moves, have hazardous cargo documentation, titles for cars, over-dimensional measurements, reefer commodity and temperatures.

Truckers involved in export delivery or drop moves at the port need to ensure they have the necessary documents and information. Here are the key requirements to keep in mind:

  1. Valid booking number: A valid booking number is essential for confirming your eligibility and authorization for export delivery or drop moves. Make sure you have the correct booking number associated with your shipment.
  2. Steamship line: Identify the specific steamship line that you are working with for the export delivery or drop move. Each steamship line has its own procedures and requirements, so be aware of the correct line to ensure compliance.
  3. Container length, height, and type: It's important to have accurate information about the dimensions and type of container involved in the export delivery or drop move. This helps with planning and ensuring that the appropriate resources are allocated.

In addition, there are specific additional requirements that may be applicable depending on your situation:

  • Hazardous cargo documentation: If you are transporting hazardous materials, ensure you have the necessary documentation and comply with all safety regulations.
  • Titles for cars: If you are handling car transportation, make sure you have the required titles and documentation for each vehicle.
  • Over-dimensional measurements: If your cargo exceeds standard dimensions, be prepared with the necessary measurements and any required permits or approvals.
  • Reefer commodity and temperature: For refrigerated cargo, have the details of the specific commodity being transported and the required temperature settings.

By being aware of these requirements and having the appropriate documentation and information ready, you can ensure a smooth export delivery or drop move at the port. Remember to check with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to stay informed about any specific regulations or additional requirements that may apply to your particular situation.

If applicable, for export delivery or drop moves, have hazardous cargo documentation, titles for cars, over-dimensional measurements, reefer commodity and temperatures.

15. Use the “Port to Port / Terminal Information Pre-Advice System” website or app for vessels open for receiving and direction of empty returns.

Truckers picking up freight at the port, it's crucial to utilize the Port to Port/Terminal Information Pre-advice System (PTP/TIPS) website or mobile app to stay updated on vessels that are open for receiving. This valuable resource allows you to track the availability of vessels and plan your drop-off of export containers accordingly. Before dropping off an export container, ensure that both your insurance and booking numbers are valid by checking them in advance. Additionally, reach out to the Steamship Line for any additional instructions or guidelines specific to the drop-off process. By utilizing the PTP/TIPS system and staying in communication with the Steamship Line, you can streamline your operations and ensure a smooth and efficient drop-off of export loads. Stay informed and make the most of the available resources to facilitate your workflow at the port.

Use the “Port to Port / Terminal Information Pre-Advice System” website or app for vessels open for receiving and direction of empty returns.

16. For empty delivery or drop moves have steamship line and container dimensions.

Truckers involved in empty delivery or drop moves at the port should be aware of the specific requirements for a smooth process. Here are the key elements to consider:

  1. Steamship line: Identify the steamship line associated with the empty delivery or drop move. Knowing the correct steamship line helps ensure that you follow the appropriate procedures and guidelines set by that specific line.
  2. Container length, height, and type: Have accurate information about the dimensions and type of the empty container involved in the delivery or drop move. This information aids in planning and ensures that the right container is allocated for the transport.

By being aware of these two essential elements - the steamship line and container dimensions - you can ensure a successful empty delivery or drop move at the port. Always have this information readily available to streamline the process and avoid any unnecessary delays or complications. Remember to stay in touch with the relevant authorities or stakeholders to stay informed about any additional requirements or guidelines that may apply in your situation.

For empty delivery or drop moves have steamship line and container dimensions.

17. Confirm insurance and booking numbers are valid prior to dropping off an export container as well as calling the steamship line for any additional instructions.

It's important to stay informed about the direction of empty returns before dropping off an empty container at the port. Check the websites or mobile apps provided by the port or relevant authorities to access the necessary information. In addition, before proceeding with the drop-off, ensure that your insurance and booking numbers are valid and up to date. Verifying this information in advance will help prevent any complications or delays during the drop-off process. Lastly, make it a practice to reach out to the steamship line for any additional instructions or guidelines specific to the drop-off of export containers. By confirming the validity of your insurance and booking numbers and staying in communication with the steamship line, you can ensure a smooth and efficient drop-off process. Stay proactive, utilize available resources, and follow the necessary protocols to enhance your experience when picking up freight at the port.

Confirm insurance and booking numbers are valid prior to dropping off an export container as well as calling the steamship line for any additional instructions.

18. Ensure there are no holds on a container prior to pickup.

It's crucial to ensure that there are no holds on the container before proceeding with the pickup of an import load. Holds can be related to various factors such as freight, customer issues, demurrage, customs, and more. It is essential to verify that all necessary clearances and approvals have been obtained for the container you are about to pick up. Checking for holds in advance will help you avoid unnecessary delays or complications during the pickup process. Stay proactive and thorough by confirming the status of the container and ensuring that it is ready for pickup, free from any holds or restrictions. This will contribute to a smooth and efficient experience when collecting your import load at the port.

Ensure there are no holds on a container prior to pickup.

19. Do your research and confirm with the steamship line about generator set needs prior to dispatch, if applicable.

Make sure to conduct thorough research and communicate with the steamship line regarding any generator set needs before dispatching to the pier. Depending on the nature of the cargo or specific requirements, certain shipments may necessitate the use of a generator set. To ensure a seamless pickup process, gather all the necessary information regarding generator set requirements, if applicable, and confirm it with the steamship line. By doing so, you can adequately prepare your equipment and avoid any last-minute surprises or delays. Stay proactive and thorough in your approach by conducting the necessary research and communication, ultimately contributing to a successful pickup experience at the port.

Do your research and confirm with the steamship line about generator set needs prior to dispatch, if applicable.

20. Travel in the designated areas only and keep the travel lanes open.

Be sure to adhere to the designated roadways and keep the travel lanes open. Port areas can be busy and congested, making it essential to follow the designated routes and pathways. By doing so, you contribute to the smooth flow of traffic and maintain efficient operations within the port. Be mindful of signs and markings that indicate the designated areas for truck travel and avoid straying into restricted or unauthorized zones. Keeping the travel lanes open helps ensure the safety of everyone involved and minimizes disruptions in the port environment. Remember, by traveling in the designated roadways and keeping the travel lanes clear, you play a vital role in maintaining a well-organized and efficient operation at the port.

Travel in the designated areas only and keep the travel lanes open.

21. Stay inside your vehicle prior to being serviced on the straddle line.

Follow the proper protocols when being serviced on the straddle line at the port. Before the straddle carrier arrives, make sure to remain inside your vehicle. Once the straddle carrier is ready for servicing, step out of your vehicle and position yourself within the designated box painted on the ground next to your cab. This protocol is particularly relevant for terminals such as Maher and PNCT. By adhering to these guidelines, you ensure your safety and maintain a smooth workflow during the pickup process. Remember, staying inside your vehicle until the appropriate time will help facilitate efficient and secure operations on the straddle line.

Stay inside your vehicle prior to being serviced on the straddle line.

22. Do not travel with passengers while on a terminal as it is strictly prohibited.

It’s important to know that traveling with passengers while on a terminal is strictly prohibited. Port terminals have specific safety regulations and guidelines in place to ensure the smooth flow of operations and minimize potential risks. This includes restrictions on transporting passengers in your vehicle while inside the terminal premises. It is crucial to prioritize safety and comply with these regulations to maintain a secure environment for everyone involved. Remember to always adhere to the guidelines provided by the port authorities and refrain from carrying passengers while navigating the terminal. By doing so, you contribute to a safer and more efficient port experience for all.

Do not travel with passengers while on a terminal as it is strictly prohibited.

23. Do not arrive at a pier without knowing if a generator set is required or what temperature is required for a reefer load.

It is essential to be well-informed before arriving at a pier. One crucial aspect to consider is whether a generator set is required for your cargo or if specific temperature requirements apply to a reefer load. It is vital to have this information beforehand to ensure a smooth and efficient pickup process. Arriving at a pier without the necessary knowledge can lead to delays and potential complications. Take the time to communicate with the relevant parties, such as the steamship line or dispatch, to clarify if a generator set is needed or the specific temperature requirements for a reefer load. By being proactive and well-prepared, you can avoid unnecessary setbacks and ensure a successful pickup of your freight at the port. Stay informed, plan ahead, and make the necessary arrangements to have a hassle-free experience.

Do not arrive at a pier without knowing if a generator set is required or what temperature is required for a reefer load.

24. Wear your safety vest at all times while on a terminal.

Your safety should always be a top priority. When operating within a terminal, it is crucial to wear your safety vest at all times. This high-visibility garment enhances your visibility to others, including terminal staff, fellow truckers, and equipment operators. By wearing your safety vest, you contribute to a safer working environment for everyone involved. It helps prevent accidents and ensures that you are easily identifiable to those around you. Remember, your safety vest is a simple yet effective tool that plays a significant role in maintaining a secure and efficient operation at the port. So, before stepping foot on the terminal, make sure to don your safety vest and keep it on throughout your time within the premises.

Wear your safety vest at all times while on a terminal.

25. Follow all signage or verbal instructions to prevent delays.

It’s crucial to emphasize the importance of following instructions to ensure a smooth and efficient pickup process. Whether it's through clear signage or verbal guidance from port personnel, make sure to pay close attention and comply with all instructions provided. By doing so, you minimize the risk of encountering unnecessary delays and prevent the possibility of having to be escorted back to a previous processing area. Port operations require coordination and adherence to specific protocols, and following instructions is key to maintaining a seamless flow of activities. So, stay vigilant, be attentive to instructions, and cooperate with port personnel to ensure a successful and timely pickup of your freight. Your cooperation will contribute to a more efficient and hassle-free experience at the port.

Follow all signage or verbal instructions to prevent delays.

26. Do not use a cell phone or engage in distracting activities while driving or being serviced on a terminal.

Make sure you prioritize safety and minimize distractions while driving or being serviced on a terminal. Avoid using your cell phone for calls, texting, or engaging in any distracting activities such as social media, video games, or watching movies. These distractions can divert your attention from the road or the tasks at hand, putting yourself and others at risk. Port terminals can be busy and dynamic environments, requiring your full focus and concentration. By staying focused on the road and the tasks associated with pickup or servicing, you ensure a safer and more efficient experience. Remember, it only takes a moment of distraction to cause an accident or delay. So, keep your cell phone out of reach, resist the temptation of distractions, and prioritize safety above all else. Your commitment to being attentive and focused will contribute to a smoother and safer operation at the port.

Do not use a cell phone or engage in distracting activities while driving or being serviced on a terminal.

27. Always present your original Transportation Workers Identification Credentials for inspection when requesting unescorted access to a secure or restricted area of a maritime terminal or vessel.

For truckers picking up freight at the port, one essential credential you must possess is the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC). When requesting unescorted access to secure or restricted areas of a marine terminal or vessel, it is crucial to present your original TWIC for inspection. Keep in mind that presenting a photocopy instead of the actual TWIC can lead to criminal prosecution. Your TWIC contains embedded technology that should be handled with care to avoid damage. It is important not to punch a hole in the TWIC to hang it on a lanyard, as doing so can damage the antenna and obstruct the card's security features. By always carrying and presenting your original TWIC, you comply with security protocols and ensure a smooth and secure access process. Remember to handle your TWIC with care to preserve its functionality and integrity.

Always present your original Transportation Workers Identification Credentials for inspection when requesting unescorted access to a secure or restricted area of a maritime terminal or vessel.

28. Never video tape or photograph while on a terminal as it is strictly prohibited.

It’s important to respect the rules and regulations regarding photography and videography while on the terminal premises. It is strictly prohibited to engage in such activities, including video recording or taking photographs. These restrictions are in place to maintain security, privacy, and confidentiality within the port environment. Violating these rules can lead to serious consequences, including legal repercussions and potential access restrictions. It is crucial to adhere to these guidelines and focus on your primary task of safely and efficiently picking up your freight. By respecting the rules and refraining from video recording or photography, you contribute to a secure and orderly operation at the port.

Never video tape or photograph while on a terminal as it is strictly prohibited.

29. Never leave a terminal without ensuring all damages are indicated on the Trailer Interchange Receipt as you will be held responsible for incidents not documented.

Pay close attention to the condition of the container or equipment you are interchanging. Before leaving the terminal, it is essential to thoroughly inspect the trailer and ensure that any noticeable damage is clearly indicated on the Trailer Interchange Receipt (TIR). The TIR serves as a document that shows the condition of the container or equipment at the time of interchange. By carefully documenting any damages, you protect yourself from being held responsible for incidents that may have occurred prior to your possession of the freight. Remember, neglecting to indicate damages on the TIR can result in unnecessary liability and potential financial burdens. Taking the time to document any noticeable damage will help ensure a smoother process and protect your interests as a trucker picking up freight at the port.

Never leave a terminal without ensuring all damages are indicated on the Trailer Interchange Receipt as you will be held responsible for incidents not documented.

30. Do not speed and always keep at least 10 feet between you and the container in front when entering the inbound or outbound portal.

Be sure to adhere to the posted speed limit and maintain a safe distance when entering the inbound or outbound portal. Exceeding the speed limit or closely following the driver in front of you can lead to delays in your visit, as you may be directed to manual processing areas. To ensure a smooth and efficient process, always keep a minimum distance of 10 feet between your tractor and the container in front. By obeying these guidelines, you contribute to a safer environment and help prevent unnecessary delays that can impact your schedule. Remember, maintaining a safe speed and distance is not only essential for your own safety but also for the overall flow of operations at the port.

Do not speed and always keep at least 10 feet between you and the container in front when entering the inbound or outbound portal.

As you embark on your next journey to pick up freight at the port, armed with these 30 valuable tips, we believe you are well-equipped to conquer any challenge that comes your way. Remember, preparation, attention to detail, and adherence to safety protocols are the keys to success. By optimizing your efficiency, maintaining a calm and professional demeanor, and staying informed about the specific requirements and procedures of each port, you will rise above the rest and become a true master of port pickups. Embrace the opportunities, face the hurdles with confidence, and continue to be the backbone of global trade. Safe travels, truckers, and may your pickups at the ports be filled with smooth operations, fruitful partnerships, and endless possibilities.

Want more trucker content? Read our articles on: Semi-Truck Leasing and the 30 Best Truck Driver Quotes for Success in Life and Business

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