Truck drivers complain of long wait times at Port of Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side got claims from truck drivers of mismanagement at the Port of Virginia in Portsmouth. They claim they’re forced to wait for hours to drop off and pick up containers.

The Port of Virginia is boasting much success, increasing revenues, increased volume — a real turn around story. Just Wednesday, the port announced millions in savings by reducing debt cost. But the truck drivers who serve the port expect more from management.

Truck drivers have called WAVY.com about this problem before, and we went to the port, and we did find problems. The pictures emailed to us from frustrated truckers show them backed up onto the Western Freeway (Highway 164.)

“This is a mess. It is killing us. I mean, we are trying to survive, and it’s taking us down,” truck driver Blake Nixon said.

Nixon and many other truckers claim it takes hours to get into the Virginia International Gateway terminal (VIG), which is one the port’s two primary container terminals. The other is Norfolk International Terminal (NIT).

“It’s every day. Four … five hours every time you come in here … it’s terrible. This is supposed to be the most efficient port. There’s no efficiency here,” Nixon said.

10 On Your Side went down to see just how bad it is at the front of the port — the smell of urine is everywhere. Truck drivers stuck for hours waiting to get into the terminal can’t hold it any longer. There are no portable toilets, so bottles of urine are discarded on the ground alongside bags of human feces.

WAVY.com asked truck driver Danny Bartoli how he relieves himself when he’s waiting for hours. He replied, “To be honest, a bucket, a jug, just pour it out. That’s all you can do.”

Photos: Truckers wait for hours at Port of Va.

10 On Your Side contacted Port of Virginia spokesman Joe Harris, who said the port is handling a high volume of containers. Right now, he said VIG terminal is operating above capacity, and he blamed that and the delays on recent bad weather. He said the weather closed the port for four days: five vessel calls and 7,000 containers in February were pushed to this month.

“We are fully aware of the situation that has beset motor carriers trying to serve [Virginia International Gateway] this week. We understand that it is unacceptable to them and it is unacceptable to the Port of Virginia team as well,” Harris said on Wednesday. “We are operating with a high sense of urgency to correct the situation. To that end, today we announced an extension of the hours of operation at VIG.”

Harris said the port will keep VIG terminal open until 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It will also be open Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Truckers, however, say it’s not just this week. They’ve complained about the wait times for months. And even Harris said the port set an all-time container volume record last year.

“What makes it so bad is, with department of transportation regulations, we are only allowed an 11-hour driving day,” Truck driver Tom Johnson said. “So, when you spend five to six hours in here trying to pick up a container, it doesn’t do a lot for your paycheck.”

Here is some good news we got in an email from Harris: “I played your message for our chief operating officer, and right away, he said he was ordering a bank of toilets for the gate queue at VIG.”

Harris also said the port plans to diminish some of the delays at VIG and NIT by using Portsmouth Marine Terminal better, shifting more vessel services there.

10 On Your Side was assured greater efforts will be made to get truckers into the port quicker.

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