Truck congestion at O’Hare – We want your comments

It's not the queue to get into the cargo areas of O'Hare, but it's what it looks like all the time right now.
It's not the queue to get into the cargo areas of O'Hare, but it's what it looks like all the time right now.


Things are a mess at O'Hare right now, and we want your feedback.

The lines to access the cargo areas are horrible. Once you're in the facility, the service doesn't get people handled quickly, politely or respectfully.

Air cargo is the most expensive mode of transport, but the way it is being handled right now at O'Hare is far from a premium service.

The IACAC, along with the Chicago Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association, are working to find solutions to this problem. We make no promises, but we are at the earliest stages of engaging all the stakeholders to better share our concerns and suggestions to take steps towards improving things.

If you have specific comments or suggestions, or would like to share something that you've experienced, please leave a comment below and we'll include these concerns as part of our discussions.

0 thoughts on “Truck congestion at O’Hare – We want your comments

  • Just 58 Nautical miles Northwest of ORD lies the Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD). This airport is home to the second largest UPS hub in North America and has been operating since 1994. UPS is known for measuring EVERYTHING that can improve service and save time and money. They Chose RFD.Shuttle trucks run daily between the two airports.
    Many “Test” flights have been flown to RFD and in every case the delivery of cargo to the O’Hare area from RFD proved to be faster, usually by 2 to 3 hours, than aircraft landing at ORD. And that was when things were “normal “at ORD.
    A six lane highway between the 2 airports was completed last Autumn. This should speed up the already efficient connections between the airports.
    If you want to get O’Hare’s attention move a few freighters to RFD. You may never go back.

  • We have been told by SEVERAL truckers Alliance is the worse. We are told the police have to direct traffic on Mannheim Rd, the truckers have to wait sometimes 2-4 hours, no chairs in the waiting area and the walls are so dirty they do not even like waiting in the waiting area. When it is time to be taken care of the people at the counter a rude and inconsiderate. (my feeling is if those people don’t like their job then why are they still there?)

    Other airlines confirm the freight is available and when the trucker gets there to recover, the desk tells them “the freight is not here.” The truckers leave without the freight, we call the next day and are told the freight is here. (???? – who did the trucker talk to) The night people need to get better training and a Supervisor needs to be on duty at EVERY airline in the evenings.

  • Hi,

    Yes we experience delays, very rude customer service almost everyday at Lufthansa Chicago when obtaining info on our customer’s freight. Just today we were told in order to pick up they are now requiring a Freight release authority to make entry. This is the first time we are being advised of this over the coarse of the years.

  • Here are some issues we are now running into….
    The recovery times now at ORD are outrageous, drivers are in lines for hours to get freight.
    Truckers are charging more to recover and now want 24 hour notice to go into the airport.
    Customer service on the phone has gotten worse, some of them are nice but most do not want to talk at all to you or put in any effort to help.

  • Cynthia Savvas says:

    Quite frankly the airlines are understaffed at all handling areas. First off, you can wait on hold on the phone for over an hour easily with no answer. Then they tell you to email them for information. You send an email & likely they never respond at all.
    Now for the pick ups. Drivers are waiting in line for 4 to 6 hours. Then, they are moved to the pick up area & can have another 2 to 3 hour wait. Many carriers are refusing to handle airport pick ups.
    The airlines need to consider overnight pick ups (open 24 hours) which would alleviate some of the back up. They also need to hire more operations people for both the desk & warehouse.
    We realize that money is a factor but the stress on our clients with additional charges, & missed pick ups is a huge problem.

  • Scott Pfeifer says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I have found the level of service at the airlines to have greatly diminished in 2015. While it was slowly eroding over the past couple of years, that past three months have been nothing short of awful! Individual warehouses have 20, 30, 40 trucks waiting in line, drivers are spending two, three, or four hours before being loaded or unloaded, where in the past it took 20 or 30 minutes. The warehouses are loaded with freight, office personnel don’t know what they are doing or are confused, and there is definitively a manpower shortage inside the warehouse. Another problem that I see frequently are either broken dock doors, or house trucks taking up valuable dock space.

    Solutions would be to hire more people and pay them more so they are retained. Employee turnover at these warehouses is tremendous and contributes to the inefficiency due to the lack of experience of the workers. And move the house trailers away from the dock doors and park them on the side until they are needed.

    Air freight rates are also severely depressed. I’ve been in the business for 27 years and I think rates are about at the same level that they were when I started. I’m not sure what the solution to this is (without the government calling it collusion) but airlines really need to start raising rates in concert, with no one going back and undercutting them.

    O’Hare is a mess right now, and it has nothing to do with York and Irving Park Roads.

  • Robert Ridder says:

    I could not agree more for the need for someone to start speaking with the Airlines. The service at ALL the airlines is completely degraded. The additional surcharges have increased all delivery charges. Our customers are complaining about charges, and delays. We need something done.

  • Robert Vietti says:

    As a result of the recent West Coast ILWU-PMA labor disagreement, this resulted in unusually high air cargo volumes transporting via O’Hare. We regularly air import and export via ORD and we are continuously faced with long driver waiting time resulting from airline cargo terminal congestion. In particular, Swissport, Total Airport Services, Air General, and Lufthansa are daily challenges. It is not uncommon to lose a driver for up to 2 or more hours trying to either recover or deliver to airlines using these facilities. I have visited one of the major facilities that I mentioned and I find the issue is:

    1. Lack of proper management at the facility.
    2. Lack of qualified dock labor.
    3. Office personnel at the handling agent that lack any sense of urgency
    3. Insufficient Labor staffing both on the dock and office of handling agent.
    4. Improperly maintained facilities resulting in fewer dock availability for driver turns.

    All points are within the control of the management of the cargo handling agent. To make matters worse, the airlines do not accept any responsibility towards fixing the problem stating the fault lies with the cargo handling agent. Cargo handling agents recover terminal fees………maybe the solution is to start billing the air cargo handling facilities and airlines for driver waiting time.

  • our truckers are getting tickets while waiting in lines and the waiting time has gone as long as 9 hours which now
    they are going to start charging surcharge per shipment to go to o’hare and pick up or drop off shipments which is
    going to be passed on to our customers which will then be passed onto all americans who purchase goods
    i personally went to airline last week and was amazed at the traffic and lines at cargolux

  • Beata Burczyc says:

    It is not what is used to be. Service from import staff (various airlines) as well as warehouse has declined drastically. Truckers should not wait for hrs to recover a shipment. Truckers are complaining daily. We cannot commit to deliveries to our customers, therefore customers are complaining. This leads us, the forwarders, to complain to the Dept of Aviation. Loosing money and customers is not what anyone wants to do. We need more staff, that is willing to help and work to accommodate the increase of shipments. Something needs to be done immediately.

  • When the airlines actually handled their own freight, recovery used to be within 3-4 hours after flight arrival. Now, that the handling agents have come into play and taken over all the airlines in Chicago, the service has deteriorated to a snails pace. No longer can we promise our customers next day delivery. Handling agents, whether the airlines demanding the lowest rates or the handling agents competing against each other for 1/2 pennies, they then try to lower their costs by hiring minimum wage personnel, that don’t understand air freight and truly do not care about their jobs and will jump as soon as they can receive a little more per hour. Now, I hear that the who crew works the aircraft, but doesn’t leave anyone in the warehouse to simultaneously breakdown the pallets as they come in….where is the processes in the warehouse ? I’d be willing to pay double the Terminal Charges, if it would mean these handling agents would properly staff their facilities to run it the way the airlines used too. The airlines, handling agents, forwarders, all playing a part in hammering prices downward have done so, without remembering that service costs. When everyone starts bidding at cost to handle the volumes thinking costs will go down….understandable to a point, but we’ve hit rock bottom and something must be done as it just gives all our customers, the importers, a bad taste of our reputations.

  • I’m afraid the same circumstances exist in a Boston as well, and there is no external cause like construction, road repairs or expansions. Yes, the handling agents take longer. The airlines have less personnel. Both have cut their hours of operations. We don’t have an answer yet, but will watch closely your results. Unfortunately, the truckers try to pass the costs on for wait time and the customer is saying why should we pay so we get caught between a rock and a hard place, and can’t collect monies on behalf of the truckers who have to wait. It’s 2015 and hard to believe retrieval or drop off has gotten worse, not better.

    • The inefficiencies at the airport for local trucking and forwarders have reached epidemic levels. There are no way we as an industry can continue to manage the inland freight movements for the O’Hare market unless we see change and see it in short order. Our industry is starting to experience one of the single largest challenges of the last 20-30 years that being the driver/labor shortage. As the economy continues to grow, it will be impossible for all of the current carriers in the market place to be able to manage that grow as we will not be able to find drivers to fill our trucks!!! It is very easy to buy more trucks or open more terminals but it is impossible to find qualified drivers to manage those trucks. The greater transportation network is going to be forced to prioritize their business volumes and their relationships with each of their customers. If a customer is either not willing to pay for the inefficiencies that exist or is not willing to work towards a solution to the inefficiencies, we are all going to be forced to increase our rates substantially (due solely to the delays and inefficiencies) or to avoid doing business in an environment that treats us with very little respect. The current environment at the airport is not that of a partnership in which we all work in tandem to provide a service to the customer that is customer effective, efficient, & timely manner. In addition to the driver shortage, we are all being faced with an increase in our current driver wages by as much as 25% in many instances and especially over the next few years. There is not a single trucking company that is going be able to afford to have a driver or drivers sit at O’Hare to fight the delays, inefficiencies, and lake of professionalism that currently exists at that market.

      I like what you guys are doing to start the process of initiating change within the airport market. I tend to think that it is going to need a larger group of trucking/transportation owners or senior executives combined with senior level managers at many of the forwarders to combine their resources (potentially with some of our elected officials) to really bring light to this issue and to initiate change within the ORD market. In our recent dealings with staff from many of these locations it is clear that they simply do not care about the truckers as we are not the ones that pay their bills and/or the ones that have the financial relationships with them. They are going to continue to operate in a manner that makes them efficient or that makes them lean and mean without regard for how it affects us. I guess change will finally come when the transportation community starts to prioritize between customers that are partners and allow profitability verses those that are unprofessional and that cause us significant non-billable delay. Something has to change!!

  • This issue of service or lack thereof at all ORD facilities has caused me to question why I stay involved in this industry. The rhetoric seems consistent from one handling company to the next. Not our fault not my problem. Imports are the ugly stepchild to carriers when it comes to local airline support so the urgency to address systemic issues do not exist. One of the more recent mind blowing statements from an airline handling agent “it is your responsibility to call customs to fix my AMS issues”. In regards to the traffic issue at Mannheim and Irving Park in 2 cases the police had blocked access and told my driver to come back later. Not only did we receive hundreds of dollars in waiting time but failed to meet our delivery deadlines. New policies at Alliance restrict the ability to pre-certify cargo release – they will no longer accept e-mail or fax releases – the release is to be checked at time of driver check in. These kind of practices are becoming far too common. The trend for handling companies to find new ways to force a shipment into storage are a blatant predatory business practice such as less free time, Sundays and all holidays counted as storage days. And the increase in terminal fees for less and less service is extortionate. We have also experienced dozens, yes dozens of mis-delivered consignments caused by mis-loading at the handling companies. Everything from swapping house bill numbers, to release of uncleared cargo to truckers dispatched by other forwarders, to our shipment ending up in Canada due to mis-loading. Accountability is non-existent – thank you for the sounding board.

  • We are all experiencing the delays but until the shipping public gets involved to address their increased costs of doing business by accepting detention times, surcharges and increased fees the airport will not change as it does not hit their pocketbooks. Lack of staffing and for that matter lack of experienced staffing on the dock, unsanitary conditions for drivers who are waiting for hours on end to make service and the Airline not caring at all as they have the money and focus on the import side of the building.

    It has gotten better but that is only because freight levels have softened a little but the issues remain the same.

    I look forward to the work being done by the IACC and hope it gets better. Drivers want to drive and feel productive and not wait in line for hours and hours to pick up 300 lb. shipments.

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