Scheduling material handling vehicles in a container terminal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Increasing global trade has created the need for efficient container ports. The goal of the port is to move containers as quickly as possible and at the least possible cost. Goods that are delayed at the port are inevitably tardy when delivered to the customer, and thus sanctioned by late charges. Two key activities in the port are (i) unloading of containers from truck and then storage in the export area, and (ii) removal of containers from import storage and then loading onto the trucks. Since containers are large and heavy, specialized material handling vehicles are required for transporting them within the terminal. The focus of this paper is on port terminals where straddle carriers are primarily used to move containers. Container terminals typically have well developed computer and communication networks. Through these networks a terminal scheduler will control and schedule the movement of the straddle carrier fleet in real time. The objective of the terminal scheduler is to minimize the empty travel of straddle carriers, while at the same time minimizing any delays in servicing customers. This paper presents a straddle scheduling procedure that can be used by a terminal scheduler to control the movement of straddle carriers. At its core, the procedure is driven by an assignment algorithm that dynamically matches straddle carriers and trucks, as each becomes available. The procedures were developed and tested in collaboration with the largest container terminal operator in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Using a simulation model of the real system, the superiority of the proposed procedure over two alternative scheduling strategies is illustrated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-633
Number of pages11
JournalProduction Planning and Control
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


  • Container terminals
  • Straddle carrier
  • Vehicle scheduling


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