Supply Chain Bottlenecks Need Fixes Beyond Ports, Critics Say

  • Biden announced efforts Wednesday to solve port bottlenecks
  • Truckers warn of parking, retention issues as GOP blames Biden

Republicans in Congress and transportation industry stakeholders say President Joe Biden’s new plans to ease supply chain bottlenecks don’t go far enough to address the country’s shipping struggles.

Lawmakers blamed Biden for the costly delays, which have caused shortages for a range of goods. Independent truck drivers said the government was ignoring their issues, while others say more coordination is needed between transportation modes.

The critiques raise questions about the breadth of the administration’s plans and how quickly the supply chain delays, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, will be resolved.

“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,” said Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Biden Confronts Supply-Chain Crisis Stretching Past His Grip

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
Containers stacked high at the Port of Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2021.

The Biden administration announced a plan Wednesday that will move the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., which are facing congestion issues, to 24/7 operations. The administration said six companies will move more than 3,500 additional containers per week at night through the end of the year.

‘Close Coordination’ Needed

The White House and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met Wednesday with transportation and industry officials at a virtual roundtable to talk about additional ways to alleviate congestion, including a temporary expansion of warehousing and rail service, better data sharing at ports, and improving both the recruitment of truckers and quality of trucking jobs.

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies, who attended the roundtable, praised the Biden administration’s move to get ports open 24/7 since freight railroads were already operating on that timeframe, but urged caution in making sure to coordinate with the full supply chain.

“While this is a shot in the arm to increase capacity before containers reach rail lines, the industry knows close coordination with its trucking partners is critical to accelerate the movement of goods out of intermodal yards and into warehouses,” Jefferies said in a statement.

Spencer said truckers are operating “around the clock” but have been restricted by factors they don’t control, including “excessive detention time and the lack of readily-available, safe parking for their trucks.”

Truckers can face long waits at ports, which they aren’t always compensated for, Spencer added.

“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,” Spencer said.

‘Gas to Groceries’

Republicans also criticized the Biden administration for its approach to supply chains, and warned that coming vaccine mandates could further exacerbate bottleneck issues by causing unvaccinated workers to quit or be terminated. The White House is reviewing a rule requiring vaccines or weekly tests for those who work at companies with at least 100 employees.

Biden is “paying Americans more money to stay home instead of going back to work and implementing mandatory vaccine requirements that will add to the record number of Americans quitting their jobs,” House Natural Resources ranking member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) said.

“Companies simply cannot find manpower to drive trucks, offload ships, fulfill orders, or do any of the other millions of jobs needed to keep our supply chain functional,” he added.

House Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said the Biden administration and Democrats’ policies are “exacerbating or ignoring the underlying supply chain issues, from their mishandling of the COVID response in ways that are prolonging unemployment and worker shortages across the economy, to their push for a multi-trillion-dollar spending spree that is driving up prices of everything from gas to groceries.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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