NORTH BEND, Wash. - Truck driver Larry Minton has driven through Washington State too many times to count.
"Drivers are tired of the running, running, running," Minton said.
It can feel like a hamster wheel; some weeks he is working seven days straight.
"We are hiring drivers non-stop," Minton said.
Minton’s commitment to his job is crucial for us to have the goods we need.
But he is one small link of a complicated supply chain. Minton says even if his delivery is on time, sometimes the challenge goes beyond him.
"Lack of unloaders, lack of people working in the facilities to get the product to the stores," Minton said.
Labor shortage is an issue, but many times the bottleneck starts overseas for various reasons, including COVID-related setbacks.
"When the steam ship line sneezes, the entire economy catches a cold, this all has a ripple effect, it takes a while to catch up," said Rich Haas with Rainier Moving.
"We currently have 70-plus vessels waiting outside of Los Angeles to get in," said Steve Ege with Vanguard Logistics.
Both Haas and Ege work for companies that help move shipping containers in and out of major hubs like port of Seattle.
"I checked a vessel yesterday that’s been in anchor outside Whidbey Island for 18 days," Ege said.
There are too many products to move and little space to fit them at the ports. Just one aspect leading to severe delays and disruptions up and down the supply chain.
"We notice these things going state to state," truck driver Tenisha Smiley said.
Smiley says every state she travels to, something is out of stock. Her message to consumers is get ready to pay even more for some products if the gridlock continues.
Experts expect even bigger delays as we approach the holiday season.
"Understand that timing is of the essence," Ege said.
In the near term, lessening demand could ease the supply chain problem but Ege says realistically that is not going to happen. He says the supply chain could remain slower than usual until the end of 2022.
Meanwhile consumer spending has changed during the pandemic. Demand for material goods have gone up, instead of people paying for experiences like travel, due to restrictions.
That change is adding to the imbalance between supply and demand.
"If you are going to go shopping for Thanksgiving, Christmas, any holidays right now, better shop early," Minton said.
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