What the Supply Chain Shortage Means for SoCal Trucking

APL Merlion docked at Pier 300 at the Port of Los Angeles
October 29, 2021
Posted by: Suppose U Drive

A brief walk into a store or even a glance at car dealership lots is enough to make anyone notice a supply shortage. Ports around the world are backed up with ships, so those supplies are out there, but they aren’t getting to their destination. Due to a shortage of truck drivers and labor workers, ships aren’t being unloaded and goods aren’t being delivered.

Truck driving is essential to the supply chain of our economy, and a back-up in transport can have major consequences. Here’s how the supply chain shortage is impacting trucking, and vice versa.

What Caused the Supply Chain Issue?

In the 1970s, as the world became more industrialized, many countries (including the U.S.)  stopped producing their own goods. Instead, they opted to outsource those jobs to China and other places where production costs were much lower. Large U.S. corporations began paying offshore manufacturers as a cost-cutting measure. Of course, reduced labor costs were a factor, but this shift also allowed businesses to bypass many of the stricter U.S. ecological and factory protocols.

Through the years, the expansion of outsourced products has evolved to include everything from textiles, plastics, clothing, appliances, vehicles, and tech components. With this expansion the assembly of these items also involve multiple contractors. And when one part of that assembly stops, the entire process is halted.

While the supply chain may have experienced issues to a small degree in the past, the current problem began with COVID-19 shutdowns. The first wave resulted in Chinese plants closing and eventually other manufacturers as well as companies that ship and deliver goods were disrupted. Then, as people were spending more time at home, there was an influx of online shopping and home projects. This resulted in an increased demand for home goods, building materials, and daily supplies, which further depleted the supply chain resources.

Although the pandemic may have accentuated supply chain issues, the fact is America has had a shortage of laborers in warehouse and distribution centers, as well as a lack of truck drivers well before 2020.

Why Are Ports Backed Up with Cargo Ships?

At the end of September 2021, the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports had a record number of 62 ships sitting along the coast and the delays throughout the country continue to grow.

According to Bloomberg, there is an average 16-day delay before these cargo ships are unloaded and containers transported to rails or trucks. This is largely due to the truck driver shortage, which was further compounded by the high dollar amounts of federal unemployment benefits that lasted through September 2021. Many of the unemployed raked in more income by staying at home instead of actually working.

So how badly does the truck driver shortage impact the delivery of containers on cargo ships? Each ship hauls anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 containers, representing a huge amount of goods on just a single vessel. The American Trucking Association president and CEO, Chris Spear, states there is currently a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers. Prior to the pandemic, that number was 61,500.

Of all the U.S. ports, the Los Angeles and Long Beach locations receive 40% of the country’s shipping containers. The result is overcrowded warehouses, shipping containers sitting in parking lots, and major traffic jams throughout area Southern California neighborhoods.

What’s Being Done to Help Remedy This Crisis?

In an effort to reduce the supply chain bottleneck, President Biden has permitted the ports to operate around the clock, and California Governor Newsom directed state agencies to seek out private and state-owned properties where the backlog of cargo containers could be stored temporarily. However, labor shortages within the supply chain prevent the problem from being resolved.

With labor forces being short of workers in warehouses, on the docks, and drivers to man the trucks, the shipment and delivery of goods continues to be delayed. As news media continues to report on the delays, people are being warned to expect shortages for the holidays, as store shelves become emptier. While there is no downplaying the problems we’re currently facing, with every problem there is a solution.

Is There a Silver Lining In All of This?

There’s no denying that the trucking industry has overcome challenges, and this is just another opportunity to rally and conquer. Although many truck drivers are retiring or opting for a new career path, as the backbone of America, the trucking industry is still going strong. That signals the opportunity for growth and job stability.

Now that extra unemployment benefits have stopped and business demands continue to grow, people of all ages are looking for a reliable income source. Additionally, people are relocating at an increased rate and seeking new adventures; and many want out of the office for good. This opens the door for the trucking industry to attract individuals that have a zest for something new, a good work ethic, and want to make a positive impact by joining the heart of America’s supply chain.

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