A fourth consecutive day of truck jams outside South Carolina’s busiest port terminal appears to have been the last straw.
Mount Pleasant Police diverted trucks away from a critical road leading to the Wando Welch Terminal Thursday after hundreds of trucks once again got caught in a traffic jam due to a new gate check system. Police also limited the number of trucks entering the terminal at any one time, after hundreds of trucks became stuck in a line that occasionally stretched miles and limited traffic on Interstate 526.
Mayor Linda Page said her police chief made the call after several businesses along Long Point Road complained the constant backups all week had prevented practically any customers from reaching them. At first, officers did not allow any new trucks onto the access road. But, once the initial backup cleared, Page said they began allowing a limited number at a time.
State Ports Authority officials said they had reduced the backlogs Wednesday, but ran into a new problem Thursday when the system had to be reset due to a “technology issue.” “The outage lasted slightly more than one hour,” an email from the Ports Authority said. “In one hour at this time of the day, we should handle in excess of 400 trucks and there is not enough queuing space so the truck traffic quickly backs up.”
Meanwhile. the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) announced it will begin taking extra measures Friday — including helping with traffic control along Long Point and posting electronic signs so truck drivers will know what to expect with the new system. Agency employees will also be on location to help with traffic flow.
Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome had earlier apologized to area residents who were affected by the massive delays. He insisted the new system would eventually be more efficient once employees and truckers got used to using it.
“I think over time it will allow us to be more efficient in what we’re doing,” he told WCSC-TV. “But any new technology in the port industry tends to have some short term disruptions.”
South Carolina Trucking Association director Rick Todd said he understands ports officials are doing all they can, but warned the idling and lost time raise the costs for truckers — who will likely pass on the additional costs to customers.
“Right now, it’s a significant inconvenience,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But the goal on the Ports Authority’s part is surely to get these bugs worked out as quickly as possible so that everybody can go back to being efficient.”