Thursday, October 14, 2021

US Ports Step Up Working Hours in a Bid to Resolve Christmas Shortages

Driver Problems Dog Busiest Period for Freight Movements
Shipping News Feature

US – Whilst certain cloth eared officials in the UK administration refuse to accept any responsibility for the HGV driver shortage which has caused reduced supplies of certain goods in the shops, Britain is not the only place suffering, as evidenced by a White House meeting this week.

With Christmas approaching the Biden administration summoned a variety of business interests to hear the President’s plans to resolve the problem, at least in the short term. We have written often with regard to ongoing problems at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, two vital west coast hubs for inbound freight, particularly from the Far East.

The two ports are responsible for circa 40% of all containerised imports, and the administration put a positive spin on things by saying whilst China had seen major disruptions with several vital ports, completely or partially closing due to the Covid19 pandemic, and other countries such as Vietnam had seen production plummet, America had recovered faster, exacerbating her own problems.

President Biden, who instituted a a review of certain vital products such as pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors shortly after being elected, also created a role for former Obama administration transportation official, John Porcari, to negotiate improvements between the ports management and the unions.

This now appears to have come to fruition with major players such as Walmart and FedEx talking about agreeing to 24/7 operations, with the Port of Long Beach instituting overnight and weekend working some weeks ago and Los Angeles apparently now willing to do the same. However, as regular readers will know, many of the problems in California stem from shortage of, and disputes over, chassis transport, and the drivers responsible for hauling the boxes.

Whilst the White House praised the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) as it said it was willing to take on extra shifts, the Teamsters union, whose General President Jim Hoffa participated in the discussions, made the point about dock delivery and drayage drivers, saying:

“I want to thank the White House for including the Teamsters in a meeting this morning where both worker and business interests were present to discuss the ongoing supply chain disruptions in this country centred around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. As he has repeatedly demonstrated since his election, President Biden is a uniter who strives to bring opposing viewpoints together for the greater good of the country.

“One of the major problems with the current state of logistics is the shortage of port truck drivers. They are not paid a living wage and are largely treated as indentured servants. And that will continue until this country deals with the issue of misclassification which allows them to be subjugated by companies.

“If people can make an adequate wage with good working conditions, they will come to work. But that means they must be treated as employees who are allowed to organise with a union so they can negotiate proper compensation, benefits and workplace safety. Nothing will change until that happens.”

Photo: Courtesy of Port of Long Beach.