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How Do Labor Shortages Impact Shipping

November 29, 2021 Kevin Baxter

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Labor shortages can impact the economy in a variety of ways, including delivering a tangible effect to shipping times. Supply chain delays have been a big story throughout the pandemic. And in the midst of a generally recovering economy, a variety of industries are dealing with ongoing labor shortages which have also gained notice. Freight and logistics hasn't escaped this trend, making it a major culprit in shipping delays.

Is there a labor shortage?

By a variety of metrics, there is a shortage of qualified labor in the U.S. - and beyond. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the rate of job openings to hires is as high as it's been, meaning it's taking employers longer to fill positions. Also at a peak level is the quit rate - the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs. What's more, an NFIB survey shows about half of U.S. small businesses report job openings that can't be filled. And overall, the U.S. economy is still about 5 million filled jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic.

When it comes to logistics, jobs along the supply chain face similar issues. The highest profile of these is a truck driver shortage - more on that below - but other key posts are also unfilled. At a variety of ports, there's a lack of workers to unload goods from ships - including crane operators, top handler drivers, and trans drivers to move loads a short distance. And a warehouse worker shortage also appears ongoing.

Is there a truck driver shortage?

Evidence from a variety of sources indicates there is a truck driver shortage, though the issue is perhaps more complex. The American Trucking Association says a current shortage of thousands of drivers will only grow. However, another explanation says it's not a shortage of qualified drivers, but problems with pay and worker conditions causing the shortage. Regardless of the explanation, this issue has been brewing since before the pandemic. And it doesn't appear to be going away.

How does a labor shortage affect logistics?

A labor shortage in one of a variety of jobs can have a major effect on logistics. The effects grow exponentially when the shortage involves multiple key roles. Port delays caused by labor shortages along with other factors - and more other factors - have a trickle down effect on shipping times of a wide variety of products - as freight is delayed before even reaching U.S. soil. Truck driver shortages - or the fact that active drivers are underutilized - then lead to delays getting those loads from the ports to their final destinations. Though intermodal transport can be a partial solution. And when it comes to the supply chain, worker shortages at factories and along other links also have a tangible effect.  

Navigating labor shortages, equipment scarcity, and other logistics issues is a challenge. And it's a challenge a third party logistics provider (3PL) can help with. If your company's having trouble with shipping anywhere along the supply chain, let us know, and we'll see if we can use our expertise and connections in freight and logistics to help. 

For more about InTek Freight & Logistics - and the industry in general, go to our Learning Center or visit the highlighted pages below. If you're interested in working with us, hit the Talk to Us button and we'll be happy to get in touch to discuss your freight needs.

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