Biden's 24/7 port operations aren't working because truckers aren't showing up to collect cargo, data suggests

By Mary Hanbury

President Joe Biden has ordered California ports to stay open all night to ease supply chain jams — but data shows that truckers aren't showing up to collect the cargo. 

According to shipping giant Maersk, around half of its 2,000 available appointments for truckers at its giant terminal on the Port of Long Beach went unused on Friday, The Washington Post reported.

Truckers aren't showing up because they either don't have the chassis available to hold the cargo or because warehouses are full, experts say.

Plus, the industry is also grappling with a record shortage of drivers

The number of boats at anchor, waiting to dock and unload at the crowded Southern California ports, reached record highs over the weekend, indicating that things haven't improved since Biden's 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule came into force.

The White House announced this new schedule earlier this month to help ease port jams. The ports of LA and Long Beach have remained clogged for months because of the global supply chain crisis. After a fall in shipping demand during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, a surge at the end of that year has led to delays and blockages across the world.

Insiders say that Biden's all-hours schedule won't resolve the supply chain jams on its own because it doesn't address the entire supply chain. 

"This level of operations is not an overnight, simple solution to implement — and does not solve the broader supply chain capacity challenges and shortage of workers in trucking, warehouse, and supply chain jobs," Narin Phol, regional managing director of Maersk North America, said at an industry conference in South Carolina on Monday, The Post reported. 

Truckers are also struggling to make space for new containers because they're having to store empty containers that should be back at the ports, but aren't, because of restrictions on returns, Matt Schrap, CEO of Harbor Trucking Association, a coalition of carriers that serves the ports of California, recently told Bloomberg.

"We are running out of space," he said. "These containers are just being stacked on top of each other."

The US is also currently short of 80,000 truck drivers, which means there aren't always enough people to collect the cargo that's clogging up the docks. 

On Monday, the California ports announced that they would impose new fines on containers that are left on the docks for several days.

Industry insiders question whether the fees will simply end up being passed onto retailers who are already paying sky-high shipping rates. 

"Key issues such as chassis availability and empty container returns still need to be addressed," the National Retail Federation said, according to The Post.

It continued: "We encourage ocean carriers to continue to work with importers and truckers to move cargo as quickly as possible and not just pass along the cost of the fee, which will further exacerbate the problems."