The Affects of Trucking Bottlenecks

By Dana Smith, The Mindful Trucker

When is the last time you made a product purchase through a store or online? Have you ever stopped to think about how that product gets to your home or the store that you bought it from? How long does it take, and where does it come from? Most people don’t, as long as they get it when they want it.

There are a lot of things that happen in between the time you purchase the product and it arrives to you, or the store. Products are made all over the world, they are stored in warehouses and are ready to ship when someone wants them. Then someone has to create supply chain processes to make sure the product gets to where it’s supposed to. Once the order is received, the product is then put on a truck, train, ship, or plane to the destination. Sometimes, it may travel on all modes before arriving. 

We have all come to expect products to be at our disposal when we want them. But what if they weren’t? What if the product you needed just wasn’t available? Rewind back to the beginning of COVID. When the pandemic broke, most people were quarantined to their home, thus purchasing more products online. This put a huge strain on the supply chain. Factor in a driver shortage, and you have a recipe for a big problem. It was hard enough to find professional drivers before the pandemic. With a lot of drivers retiring, and a bunch leaving the industry due to the pandemic rules and regulations, it has become increasingly difficult to find and retain new drivers to get the freight to its destination. 

Because a lot of people worldwide were confined to their homes, imagine what happened to the manufacturing industry. Some had to slow down production or even close down due to COVID exposures. This created a gap in the supply of goods. When manufacturing slows or shuts down, a gap is created where there are little-or-no products available. We are seeing those gaps appear in the supply chain now. It is getting increasingly hard to obtain a lot of the things we use every day because of this gap. 

Remember the giant container ship, the Ever Given, that got stuck in the Suez Canal? This is one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes. This left more than 100 ships stuck on each end of the canal for days. Given the fact that 90% of all goods on earth are transported by ships, it was just bad timing and a bad spot to have this happen.

When something like this happens, it causes delays everywhere. All those products stuck for days on the ships, not moving. How does this affect the trucking industry? If you are a container hauling company hauling out of the ports, then your trucks are waiting for the ships to dock to retrieve the containers on it. If you can’t get them, then your trucks are sitting in a port, or at your yard not moving. This becomes a ripple effect for the economy. When your trucks aren’t moving, it is hard to pay expenses. When your people are sitting, you are still paying them. This creates possible layoff situations for employees. The other side of this is not getting parts or products needed daily to run your trucking company, such as truck parts. Equipment, such as trailers. What about truck tires? Fuel? Maybe it’s something in the making of the tires that they can’t get or are waiting for. If you can’t get these things to run, it affects everyone. 

Remember that automobiles and their parts are also transported by ships. You may have noticed that the car dealers lately haven’t had much stock to sell. This may be caused by these very things. It can take up to three months to get pickup trucks these days because some of the parts just aren’t available. This drives prices up as well. Supply and demand. You have heard the saying “time is money”? Well this is ever so true in trucking. Until we stop using trucks to ship goods all over the world, we will continue to expect delays in all aspects of the industry.

Imagine having a 500-truck operation, and you go to your tire supplier and they tell you it’s going to be a month before they can get the tires you want. At some point the tires will wear out and need to be replaced. What will you do as an owner to create a solution for that now? This is just one item that you use every day. What about the others?

Something else to think about, what about the mental health of the company owners, the management, and the team members when these things happen. This puts an enormous strain on people because they are asked to find solutions to these issues, and find them now. When someone is stressed, their performance drops, and they become less focused on the task at hand. This has huge implications for the trucking company in the health and wellness sector of the business. If someone is stressed and not working to full capacity, it will affect their home life, health, finances, and life as a whole. 

So the next time you order or buy a product, think about what it takes to get it where it needs to go, and all of the people involved in it. Because at the end of the day, it may be someone you know.

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