Tense Transportation

Apr 28, 2023

Bump, bump, bump went the brakes: The transportation industry is a bit bumpy right now. An index that measures logistics and transportation health hit an all-time low in March. Truck, ocean, and rail have been thwarted by lasting impacts from the pandemic and labor issues.

Which coast is the best coast? According to logistical data, the West Coast is getting 36% of import shipments, down 42% from the second part of last year. The East Coast is seeing 64% of shipments.

Take us back, back to COVID, COVID: During the pandemic, ports were seeing major backlogs and supply chain crunches. Not to mention the labor shortages. These issues meant the East Coast was getting more incoming ships.

Aboat the ports: Although the worst of COVID-related supply chain snags seem to be behind us, the reason for slowdowns now is temporary work stoppages due to contract negotiations between unions.

At the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, U.S. ag exports are seeing a boatload of losses after a union there stopped work. Shipments of meat, dairy, produce, and other goods destined for Asia are now trying to be saved, while these companies see their dollars walk the plank.

And when shipments arrived in those ports, they had to look for alternative routes.

Portable negotiations: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are in negotiations, but recently released differing statements—the former saying it reached a tentative agreement, while the latter says there’s still some work to do.

Potential strikes: Experts don’t think there will be a strike since it would undermine negotiations, but should anything happen, Congress needs to be ready to intervene if needed.

Is it time for rail? 52% of all rail freight consists of bulk commodities, like ag and energy products. Last fall’s threats of labor strikes in the rail industry and recent derailments haven’t helped transportation matters.

And grain shippers have noticed issues, citing inconsistent service. Legislation has been introduced as the Railway Safety Act of 2023.