Utah trucking companies feel strain from country’s supply chain problem

Oct 18, 2021, 7:37 AM
christmas shopping affected by shortage of shipping containers supply chain problem...
An aerial photo taken on September 4, 2021 shows an ocean shipping ship loading containers at a container terminal in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu Province, China. A worldwide shortage of shipping containers is just one reason analysts expect big delays for Christmas shopping deliveries in 2021. (Photo: Wang Chun / Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
(Photo: Wang Chun / Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Rising gas prices, worker shortages, and trucking issues: analysts say they’re all combining to make a major supply chain problem that could make this holiday shopping season very difficult for retailers.

Where have all the workers gone?

“The Great Resignation” isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.  According to a recent ABC News report, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, the highest number ever seen since the Department of Labor started tracking this data in 2000. 

No industry has been exempt from this mass exodus. That includes the trucking industry, according to Neil Sebring, fleet manager of Godfrey Trucking. 

“Every trucking company out there is looking for drivers, and there’s not enough to fill the need,” Sebring said.

What’s causing the mass resignation still isn’t known, with some analysts saying they’re uncertain if the COVID-19 pandemic caused worker frustration or simply exposed it.  However, Sebring says many companies in coastal states are requiring their workers get the COVID-19 vaccine, and these vaccination mandates are convincing many workers to quit. 

“These are the port workers.  These are longshoremen and people that unload,” he says.

Trucking industry worker shortage contributes to supply chain shock

ABC News reported 490,000 job openings in the warehouse industry in July.

Sebring believes the unemployment benefits that many people depended on during the pandemic continue to keep people out of the workforce.  Recipients must meet certain requirements in order to get these payments; Sebring says they see a lot of applications from people who don’t actually want to become drivers.

“We’ve seen a massive influx of people that apply, call to get information — and some of them even come in and interview, and then they’re gone.  We never hear from or see from them again,” he said.

Read more: Ending unemployment benefit early to fill jobs didn’t work, says state rep

While many people argue unemployment benefits kept workers out of the workforce, data does not necessarily back that up. CNBC cited census data that showed no increase in workers returning to the workforce in states that ended the additional pandemic-related unemployment benefits early. 

Parts shortage leads to truck shortage

Even if there wasn’t a driver shortage, Sebring says a shortage of trucks also contributes to the supply chain problem.  He says many of the repair parts and computer chips needed to maintain trucking fleets sit on ships at ports. 

“Right now, there’s a parts shortage for trucks.  So, we have trucks that are sitting that we can’t get parts for,” Sebring said.  “Not only is there a shortage of truck drivers, there’s a shortage of trucks.”

According to Forbes, some retail chains like Target are spending millions of dollars to charter their own vessels, which would allow them to avoid backlogged ports.

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