Five hundred and eighty days ago we witnessed a much-deserved pat on the back for the professional truck drivers’ role in keeping America moving while millions of Americans were forced to stay home. We had a chance to celebrate and show our pride in the tireless efforts of these drivers with a broad audience. It was a long-overdue resurgence of the brand of the American Truck Driver. More recently, the hard-working professional drivers are in the limelight again, not for appreciation, but rather as part of the culprit for the supply chain woes that are plaguing the world right now. This is certainly not the case, but rather a market that works in near equilibrium most of the time, and the slightest jars create significant pain.
Current state of our supply chain
The supply chain debacles that are portrayed in the media are not industry-specific, but rather a product of the reformed labor force across nearly all industries five hundred and eighty days since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic became the low tide that exposed the changing labor pool and accelerated these changes by five to six years. This was coming, we just didn’t expect an event like this to take us there so quickly. The industry was easing into this scenario prior to the pandemic and was completely exposed in about three months. Our economy and businesses are people dependent, and when there are fewer of them in the workforce (for several reasons) everyone will feel it.
Labor force shortage is taking a toll
The labor force has changed significantly since March of 2020, and it is not coming back. Inflating wages slightly is not enough to bring people back to long days, odd hours, weekend work, and non-attractive work. We see the labor issue across all facets of our business. Trailers are not getting unloaded at customer facilities, replacement trucks, trailers and parts are not available as many trucks sit idle and we all see what is happening with the stacking container ships off the port of Long Beach, CA. All of these problems are labor-related. It will certainly take more than a year to work through all of the gunk that is jamming up the supply chain right now.
The power of hope
Although it feels like it now, it’s not a helpless mess. Taking the longer view, carriers and supply chain partners that continue to focus on building capacity and creating efficiencies are going to come out ahead. You will want to partner with carriers that provide multiple options. Utilizing Paper Transport’s Truck Brokerage services and Intermodal services has opened up opportunities for customers that traditionally purchased our one-way trucks. Building out Power Only programs to offer flexible capacity for our shippers is more critical than ever. Finally, our focus on bringing new professional drivers into the profession through our Accelerate program has allowed us to maintain and grow truckload volumes for our partners.
We are in this together
We are all in this together. Carriers like Paper Transport are investing in capacity options for customers through multi-modes of transportation that are likely going to be most successful. By partnering with carriers that provide multiple options such as brokerage and intermodal services will allow for more flexible capacity for on-time deliveries. The market always changes and we will see things come back to something closer to our normal. However, there are significant challenges with the labor force that are going to stick. The progressive carriers and supply chain partners will build the backstops to better navigate the new waves that come at us.