Port experts say President Joe Biden's mandate to open the LA-Long Beach port complex 24/7 won't fix the backlog issue unless the entire distribution chain follows suit.
Captain Manny Aschemeyer oversaw our nation's largest port complex for 15 years as executive director at the Marine Exchange for Southern California. He says the real reason ships are backlogged is that ports have no room for product because the truckers responsible for the last mile in the supply chain are dropping in droves.
"Keeping all the ports open 24/7 is not going to solve the problem," said Captain Manny. "When you deliver cargo to a distribution center that's only open from eight to five, 27/4 doesn't help much because they can't leave that box there."
He says the logistical nightmare certainly begins at the ports. Backlogs began due to COVID shutdowns, which sparked massive warehouse layoffs. Then the hyper-buying of goods to restock shelves followed, leaving only limited staff to do the work. The former captain says the real panic in the pantry comes from what's happening in the trucking industry.
A Nationwide Crisis Caused by California Policies
California independent truckers are fighting an uphill battle with the state legislature. That's because California Assembly Bill 5, which is intended to give Uber and Lyft drivers minimum wage and other benefits, also affects about half of the state's truckers. The bill has stopped them from operating their own rigs by their own rules.
"About 60% of California truckers are independent," Capt. Manny said. "A lot of independent contractors simply took a hike and went to other ports around the country to work. Frankly, many got out of the business altogether."
Another hurdle is a California environmental group barring truckers from registering rigs built before 2010.
"Suddenly they're telling truckers they can't use their 10-and-a-half-year-old truck anymore," said Capt. Manny.
Given these restraints and driver shortages, he says store shelves will sit bare past Christmas. And the cost of most everything will continue going up.
In addition to the excessive backup and incoming cargo, contracts for about 15,000 West coast dockworkers are set to expire next summer. This comes as union workers fight the impact of automation which is expected to increase at more terminals.
Manny and other professionals in the business ask you to thank anyone you know in the port industry, as they are working around the clock to remedy the situation as fast as possible.