How Supply Chain Shortages Affect Trucking Everywhere

Empty loading bay of a large warehouse. Logistics center.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many things have changed, and more changes are on the way. Just over a year ago, we had the first taste of shortages, from a supply scarcity of paper goods and other products, to a lack of skills in the workforce. Almost every industry is experiencing supply chain disruptions because of COVID-19 pandemic and these challenges are affecting industries across the board.

Along with a decline in workers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for supply chains to obtain the materials they need to function. The trucking industry, in particular, continues to struggle with these deficiencies. A shortage of building materials and supply chain constraints have slowed new truck construction over the past year, resulting in production delays.

Material Shortages Are On the Rise

The manufacturing of trucks requires a wide variety of materials, including steel, rubber, braking components, engine oil, and more. Many of these items are becoming difficult to acquire and prices are increasing as well. Some items—such as clamps, gaskets, microchips and sensors—are completely unavailable. Due to these shortages, fleets are not only experiencing delays in the delivery of new trucks, they are now having trouble servicing their existing trucks.

In order to circumvent the current issues, trucking manufacturers continue to search for other options. Unfortunately, the alternate choices are costlier and often are of lesser quality, all of which contribute to production delays throughout the supply chain.

While the last eighteen months has created new challenges for the trucking industry, certain materials have always been hard to get. However, newly implemented restrictions have made it even more difficult to acquire these crucial raw materials, let alone obtain the needed quantities.

Also, the pandemic caused an artificial spike in demand as a consequence of a perceived shortage. Due to a fear of the products becoming unavailable, consumers purchased high volumes of goods in order to secure their access. Supply chains became increasingly stressed as consumers bought more and more. Manufacturers raised prices due to this excess demand, creating a cycle of shortages and price increases.

Workforce Deficit Adds to the Problem

As supply chain shortages worsen, the skills shortage only contributes to the cycle. The lack of qualified truck drivers is making matters worse from every angle. No drivers means more loaded trucks are sitting idle as companions anxiously search for more drivers to take the wheel. These delays are wasting money as companies across the board struggle to meet demand.

When it comes to workforce shortages, the lack of drivers is just one component to consider. The fact of the matter is, all industries are experiencing staffing issues. With “help-wanted” signs posted in windows of retail stores and restaurants everywhere, there seem to be far more jobs than there are willing workers.

In the trucking industry, the skills shortage means that having qualified workers available to service and repair existing trucks, as well as build new ones when parts are available, is proving extremely difficult. So, even in some situations where the products and parts are there, the skilled hands simply aren’t showing up in many cases.

Troubles Inevitably Increase Awareness

Needless to say, the last eighteen months have created a very unpleasant domino effect in many ways. Yet, for every downside, there’s always an upside. It goes without saying that trucking industry professionals have been well aware of the disruptions and lost revenue caused by driver shortages and lack of repair options. However, as store shelves become increasingly empty and prices continue to rise, awareness among consumers is growing as well.

Those of us who are not “boots on the ground” involved in the supply chains affected by COVID-19 generally focus on our own daily lives and routines—until we can’t find items we need. It is then that curiosity takes hold and we take notice of what is happening and why.

In the world of trucking, if there’s an upside to this pandemic, perhaps it is that Americans now have an increased awareness of the importance of the trucking industry. Like so many things in life, when things are going well, we tend to take them for granted. Trucking wasn’t dubbed the backbone of America for nothing, and Americans are being reminded of that important sentiment.

At the onset of the pandemic, employees across industries have worked extra hours to keep businesses open, from medical professionals and drive-through restaurants to customer service reps and truckers. Perhaps, finally, truck drivers will receive the respect, compensation, and acknowledgement they deserve for their hard work and dedication. 

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