Biden’s Boat Parade: Trucker Shortage Exacerbating U.S. Port Congestion

SAN PEDRO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15: A recreational boat passes near the Ever Lunar container ship at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest container port, on October 15, 2021 in San Pedro, California. As surging inflation and supply chain disruptions are disrupting global economic recovery, the Washington-based IMF …
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

There are fewer people employed by the trucking industry than prior to the pandemic, creating a shortage that is complicating efforts to relieve congestion at U.S. ports.

The number of people employed a truck transportation firms is around 20,0000 below its peak in the summer of 2019, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates.

Meanwhile, demand for shipping has skyrocketed as Americans aimed their record high incomes at the goods-producing sector.  The Producer Price Index for long-haul truck shipping is up around almost 22 percent compared with September of 2019, BLS data show. Compared with one year ago, when shipping prices had begun to rebound, prices are also up by over 20 percent.

 

 

Experts say that the shortage of truckers is one of the major factors in the congestion at the nation’s ports, especially in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Pick up times for containers are now as long as five or six days, around twice as long as typical. That inhibits the unloading of ships by leaving the dockyards overcrowded, forcing ships to wait for their turn in port.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced a plan to have the Long Beach and LA ports operated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. But that requires finding truckers willing to adjust to loading during a new shift, from 3 am till 8 am. And then there needs to be workers at the warehouses reading to receive the shipments during new hours.

The Port of LA has still not reached 24 hours a day of operations, according to a client note from analysts at Bank of America.

Normally, the LA and Long Beach ports have about a combined 9,000 truckers working them daily, according to Bank of America’s analysts..

There has been growth in the number of truckers in California. The total number of people employed in truck transportation, which includes drives and others, is up sharply, BLS data show.

This might not be entirely good news. If the ports are log-jammed despite the growing number of truckers in California, it may be harder to alleviate since the potential pool to draw in new truckers is presumably smaller.

On the other hand, train shipping is less congested than it was a few months ago, according to industry insiders.

“Trains are moving out very quickly (partly helped by it taking longer to unload ships), but overall remain in a good position,” Bank of America’s analyst report.

Peak rail delays in July and August stretched up to 14 days and is now down to three or four days. Normally, the delay is just two days.

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