Remember way back in October of 2021 when President Biden supposedly fixed the broken supply-chain issues just in time for the holidays simply by visiting the Port of Los Angeles? Yeah. Well, about that fix…it now seems the supply chain is (unsurprisingly) even more broken than ever at our nation’s busiest container port. And in reaction, the port is sounding the alarm over the backlog of cargo containers already waiting at the docks as even more ships flood the port with this year’s holiday cargo. That’s right: it’s ten long months later, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the rest of the feckless Biden Administration have failed to actually fix anything.
CBS reports that just as America’s retailers are starting to gear up for the upcoming holiday season, there are warning signs that a nationwide shipping gridlock may lead to more bare shelves and merchandise shortages. While the reasons for the gridlock are numerous, thousands of cargo containers are already piled up, clogging the docks while they wait for trains to transport them across the country. “There are about 35,000 containers that are designated for rail on our docks right now,” said L.A. Port Executive Director Gene Seroka. “On a normal day, it looks more like 9,000 units.” That’s quite a significant difference.
Seroka is sounding the alarm to prevent another scene like the one we had last year with hundreds of ships backed up in our ports. How long do we have before we see a backup like that at sea again? “We’ve probably got another four to six weeks if we do nothing,” said Seroka.
One reason for the gridlock is that over the last several years, railroads have lost 20% of their employees. Some workers were lost due to the pandemic and vaccine mandates while others were lost to the streamlining of operations “with a practice called Precision Scheduled Railroading which sometimes uses shorter trains,” according to analyst Ben Nolan. “When you’re hyper-efficient, you’re ill-prepared for unexpected things like pandemics,” explained Nolan.
So where are the cargo bottlenecks in the supply chains currently? “The bottlenecks right now are on that last mile,” said Union Pacific Executive Vice President of Operations Eric Gehringer. A shortage of rail workers is causing cargo to pile up once again at the Port of Los Angeles, which is a key link in the U.S. supply chain. Gehringer said Union Pacific has hired hundreds of new employees to “move containers inland where merchandise is transferred and delivered.” However, with a truck driver shortage in California thanks to the passage and implementation of AB5, and now a flood of new containers arriving daily, the warehouses are full, so there’s nowhere to offload the new containers. “It all begins with the importer picking up their cargo inland a little bit faster than they’ve been doing,” says Seroka. In other words, if the importers don’t pick up the containers inland, dock workers can’t move containers off the ships, and rail workers and truckers can’t move them off the docks.
America’s supply chain is a fragile system in the best of times, but these unusual times have stretched it so far and so thin it could fall apart very quickly at any link. Dock workers at the Port of L.A., for instance, “have been working without a contract for a month,” according to CBS. And “rail workers say they’re at a dead end after two years of negotiations.” So, Biden recently signed an Executive Order that creates a presidential emergency board (whatever that is) “to help resolve an ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and their unions.” Add to that mix the self-inflicted trucker shortage and America is indeed looking at bare shelves and disappointment this holiday season, thanks to continued Democratic Party incompetence.