A truck driver offered a clear picture of backlogs at US ports: it's like 'going to Walmart on Black Friday, but imagine only one cashier'

The driver of this mysterious 18-wheeler could smoke in their free time, and I frankly wouldn't care! Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • A Teamster driver broke down some of the issues truck drivers are facing at backlogged ports.

  • He said shortages of chassis and crane operators at ports have created major headaches for drivers.

  • Long wait times at ports have made it increasingly difficult for some drivers to turn a profit.

A truck driver broke down the key issues the US supply-chain is facing as over 500,000 containers float off the coast of Southern California, comparing the bottleneck to Black Friday shopping with only one cash register.

From a glut of empty containers to shortages of chassis and workers, a Teamster driver who goes by Ryan Johnson said he sees no end in sight for the shipping crisis that has caused shortages and price hikes across the country. In a post on Medium, Johnson pointed out that inefficiencies at US ports have created major headaches for truck drivers.

As about 14,000 truck drivers go through the port everyday, Johnson said a lack of cranes and crane operators at the ports has truck drivers sitting idle for hours on end - with about one crane to every 50 to 100 trucks.

"Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers," he wrote. "Think about the lines. Except at a port, there are at least THREE lines to get a container in or out. … For each of these lines the wait time is a minimum of an hour, and I've waited up to 8 hours in the first line just to get into the port."

While harbor drivers typically operate as local drivers that can drop off multiple loads in a single day, Johnson said the wait times at ports, as well as over-loaded warehouses, have made it difficult for independent contractors to turn a profit. Unlike Johnson, who is paid by the hour, many harbor drivers are paid per load and require a minimum profit in order to offset costs for trucking expenses, including leasing their trucks. Though some companies pay drivers to wait, there is no requirement for independent contractors to receive financial incentives outside of payment for delivering their loads.

"They pay for all their own repairs and fuel, and all truck related expenses," Johnson said. "I honestly don't understand how many of them can even afford to show up for work. There's no guarantee of ANY wage (not even minimum wage), and in many cases, these drivers make far below minimum wage. In some cases they work 70 hour weeks and still end up owing money to their carrier."

Last month, the White House announced that two of the largest ports in the US would expand their hours - a move Johnson said will not fix the issue.

"They are blowing smoke, and they know it," he wrote. "What it will truly take to fix this problem is to run EVERYTHING 24/7: ports (both coastal and domestic), trucks, and warehouses. We need tens of thousands more chassis, and a much greater capacity in trucking."

Experts say the shipping crisis will continue well into 2023 as the industry combats a surge in demand paired with a shortage of workers.

Read Johnson's full account on Medium.

Read the original article on Business Insider