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Supply chain dysfunction is nothing new, truckers group says

Oct. 14, 2021
Following an Oct. 13 White House meeting, OOIDA calls for relief and reform to address detention, high turnover, and other issues plaguing the trucking industry that are contributing to the current supply chain crisis.

We told you so.

That was basically the response from the nation’s largest advocacy group for independent truck drivers following an Oct. 13 summit at the White House on the current supply chain crisis that is jamming up container ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach. Supply chain issues have delayed over-the-road hauling, causing material and supply shortages, and even slowing the delivery of food and other essentials to grocery stores.

“Truckers have been working tirelessly to keep the country safe and productive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have already been operating around the clock but are often restricted by factors beyond their control such as excessive detention time and the lack of readily-available, safe parking for their trucks,” Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said in a statement issued by the independent trucker group.

“These problems must finally be addressed if the administration hopes to implement any significant supply chain solutions. Most of what we are seeing is not a surprise to our members who have been plagued with dysfunction in the supply chain for decades, and it’s not realistic to expect the supply chain will suddenly operate efficiently on a 24/7 schedule when drivers aren’t being fully paid for their time.”

Biden calls for 24/7 supply chain

OOIDA's comments came after President Biden called for 24/7 supply chain operations ahead of the holiday shopping season. Joined by the executive directors of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach during a White House summit, Biden announced that after weeks of negotiations the ports will operate 24/7 to help speed up the delivery of goods across America.

“This is the first key step toward moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain, nationwide, to a 24/7 system,” Biden said.

Some 40% of shipping containers in the U.S. come through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, Biden noted. Traditionally, U.S. ports have been open during the week—Monday through Friday—but usually close down at nights and on weekends. By staying open seven days a week, through the night and on the weekends, the Port of Los Angeles will be open for more than 60 extra hours per week, Biden explained.

“That means an increase in the hours for workers to be moving cargo off ships and onto trucks and railcars to get to their destination,” the president added. “And more than that, the night hours are critical for increasing the movement of goods because highways are less crowded at night.

“So, by increasing the number of late-night hours of operation and opening up for less-crowded hours when the goods can move faster, today’s announcement has the potential to be a game-changer. I say ‘potential’ because all of these goods won’t move by themselves.”

Biden also announced that Walmart, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, has committed to moving its products 24/7 from the ports to their stores nationwide. Specifically, Walmart is committing as much as a 50% increase in the use of off-peak hours over the next several weeks.

Additionally, FedEx and UPS have committed to significantly increase the amount of goods they are moving at night. Biden said that according to one estimate, FedEx and UPS alone move up to 40% of packages in America.

And other companies, he said, are stepping as well: Target, Home Depot, and Samsung have all committed to ramp up their activities to utilize off-peak hours at the ports.

“I want to be clear: This is an across-the-board commitment to going to 24/7,” Biden said. “This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods through our supply chain. But now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well.

“This is not called a ‘supply chain’ for nothing,” he continued. “This means the terminal operators, railways, trucking companies, shippers, and other retailers as well.”

OOIDA’s Spencer pointed out that in recent months, global supply shortages have forced some truckers off the road. Drivers are experiencing the domino effects of nationwide supply and staffing shortages, which are preventing them from complying with federal regulations. Examples include drug and alcohol testing delays and difficulties finding replacement electronic logging devices, DEF filters, and CPAP machines.

“We encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies to begin making some emergency allowances to keep safe, qualified drivers in business. But let’s be clear, the current supply chain crisis is not due to a shortage of truck drivers! Because the real bottlenecks in the supply chain occur at pickup and delivery points, adding more trucks and drivers will simply make the lines longer, NOT faster. Every region of our country and segment of our economy relies upon long-haul truck drivers and it’s time that both the government and the trucking industry begin treating them as essential workers. We support the administration’s efforts to improve the quality of trucking jobs, but this must start with valuing and compensating all of a driver’s time.”

Biden reiterated that strengthening the nation’s supply chains will continue to be the administration’s focus.

“If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action,” he said. “And if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act. Because our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.”

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