Software aims to ease trucking container congestion


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All too often a shipping container is unloaded in, say, Roanoke and the truck-size box is hauled empty back to the port of Hampton Roads while a company in Lynchburg needs an empty one.

These empty moves clog roads and marine terminals and create extra work for trucking companies.

Port officials in Hampton Roads think they've found a solution in a new Internet-based software that will link trucking companies in a "virtual container yard." The software, produced by a Portsmouth firm, matches companies with empty containers to those needing them.

Hampton Roads is the first major East Coast port to launch such a system. But the virtual yard has its detractors among trucking companies that contend it will cost them money and open them to liability for damaged containers and trailers.

"What we're trying to do here is change a way that business has been done in the ports around the nation for decades," said Rick Knapp, assistant general manager of Virginia International Terminals. "Change is not going to come easy."

Similar virtual container yards are being developed at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California, and the Port of New York and New Jersey expects to launch one in a few months.

VIT, the Virginia Port Authority's operating arm, calculates that using the system could eliminate 30 percent of the roughly one million containers moving in and out of its three Hampton Roads terminals each year.

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