OAKLAND, Calif. - West Coast port congestion is so bad, the president is brokering deals with the ports and port users to get things moving faster in order to save the holidays from bare shelves, aggravating inflation, constricting purchasing and the keeping the U.S. economy from stalling out.
It's a bold plan, with some big potholes. "With the holidays coming up, you may be wondering: Will the gifts you want to buy arrive on time?" said President Joe Biden.
With store shelves becoming more bare, President Biden brokered a deal to attempt to decongest the delays at Los Angeles and Long Beach; ports that handle 40% of the containers coming into the country. The President's solution: get the ports to operate nonstop until the overwhelming backlog of ships and containers is tamed.
"Twenty-four-seven system, what most of the leading companies in the world already operate on now, except us until now," said the president.
To make that work, the key port unions, led by the International Longshore Workers, are committing to have their members work extra shifts to get the job done. "In total, that will almost double the hours that the port is open for business from earlier this year," said Biden.
Beyond the ports, ground and air shippers FedEx and UPS will expand their hours of operation. Retail giants including Walmart, Target, Home Depot and others are also announcing expanded hours to receive goods. "This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods through our supply chain. But now we need he rest of the private sector chain to step up as well," said Biden.
The greatest danger to this deal is threefold. First, there are not enough containers in the right places in order to facilitate the movement of goods. Second, there aren't enough trailers underneath those containers in order to move those goods around.
Third, most importantly, there's simply not nearly enough truckers.
"From the trucking perspective, we are being held up at the ports, at the customers. They're wasting our time," said Bill Aboudi of AB Trucking. Long delays at the ports, coupled with limited delivery hours to warehouses and stores, has led to this. "
So, no matter how many trucks you put at it, how many drivers you put at it, if the ports are holding for four to six hours, we're just not efficient," said Mr. Aboudi.
That has caused many truckers to quit and replacing them, if you can find them, requires a lot of training and security clearances before they can work in major ports. And, when a truck breaks down, due to port congestion, there are no parts to fix them.