Supply chain collapse

A couple of weeks ago, Ryan Johnson published a very interesting piece in He explains (1) the current shipping crisis – key to the supply chain collapse we are living through – is very likely a LONG-TERM problem, and (2) none of the proposals being made by the government policy makers (and the lobbyists and even the radical “progressive left”) are going to make a dime’s worth of difference. Since then, the accuracy of his observations is more evident than ever.

The friend who shared this with me called it “the craning article” because Johnson explained the heart of the problem and how we got into this mess: the lack of infrastructure and manpower to offload and handle shipping containers at our ports. A big problem and with no sign of a solution in sight.

Johnson’s thoughts and writing are both very interesting and enlightening – if discouraging.

It ties in with some other things, also. 

Johnson points out why the ports are such a bottleneck: the limited equipment needed to unload containers and put them on trucks and trains. Including the shortage of trained personnel to operate that equipment safely and efficiently. Not just the ports on the coasts, but the multimodal “ports” inland that transfer containers from trains to trucks or are capable of rapid unloading. The cranes and loaders and such are expensive, hard to maintain, and hard to find. The people are even more a problem.

There is more behind this that Johnson doesn’t have room to point out. OSHA imposed a whole new regulatory regime system a couple of years ago on operators of cranes that applies to all industries: very long and expensive training, retraining, and certification that is even worse in some ways than CDL. This has made a major difference: I know of quite a few former crane operators who are in essence permanently unemployed: the companies won’t pay for their training – they can’t pass the various tests (shades of CDL) – and more. So there are fewer people – even if there were enough cranes.

Johnson points out that the truckers themselves are a big part of the problem – and neither he nor I blame them. The raw deal truckers have gotten for close to 50 years (remember “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Convoy”?) has gotten significantly worse in the last half-dozen years. Short on pay, long on misery.

DHS and OSHA and the various state agencies have used everything from 9-11 to the Pandemic Panic to exponentially increase their regulations. HOS (hours of service regulations) and eLogs (electronic truck logging) are just the tip of the iceberg. This drives the increasing monopolization of many industries, but especially goods transportation (just as the post-911 panic did for passenger transportation). They have now reached the point that the big trucking companies are a cartel controlling the market and able to keep anyone from starting up to compete with them. Independents are more isolated and marginalized than ever. And small trucking firms are vanishing like dew in the morning sun. Revenue and wages/salary/earnings (bucks per mile) are not keeping up with expenses – driven by government policies and the governments’ business cronies. And especially with the current explosion in oil (and diesel) prices.

It isn’t just the money hitting truckers hard.  The HOS and other regulations have made trucking a more dangerous, more frustrating, and more risky business. The money issue could be solved and to some degree is nearly automatic: offer hiring bonuses and decent wages and people will come back to driving – and other companies and consumers will be stuck with the bill big time ($1/hour payraise usually equals a $2/hour increase in fees charged.  Throw in fuel costs, maintenance costs, and equipment costs? A really vicious circle).  Even three years ago, the HOS and other regs saw truckers parking any and every place they could when the clock runs out, making dangerous decisions with no good feature.  The delays in loading/unloading have made misery even worse, as Johnson describes.

All of these negatives are being encouraged and facilitated by government. Government, especially the FedGov, don’t WANT independent truckers. They don’t WANT small trucking firms.  The bigger the better. Not only do they donate more campaign contributions and provide better parties and other perks, they are easier to deal with (and regulate) AND they want to be regulated more. (It not only reduces competition, but it an excuse to raise rates and increase profits.) And of course, all of these negatives improve the potential for getting so-called progressive global goals furthered: the green and transnational agendas and more.  It is a win-win for government, and a lose-lose for liberty.

Government is not the ONLY reason for this supply chain disaster. Government policies are not the ONLY reason that it will not go away. But it is obvious, as Johnson and many lovers of liberty are pointing out, that government is a BIG reason for this. And that government WANTS this crisis to be “unsolvable” so that they can foist their schemes of power and control on us all more easily.

Take the ten minutes to read Johnson’s article and another ten to think about what you, your family, your business, and even your community can do to be prepared for this supply chain and goods transportation mess to continue and get worse. You’ll be glad you do.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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1 Response to Supply chain collapse

  1. Samuel Boes says:

    Rob Morse had something to add:

    California ports unload a lot of goods shipped from China. California politicians wanted a larger cut of that traffic. The politicians required that trucks must be relatively new to legally haul freight from the ports. They also said that all diesel trucks will soon be outlawed in favor of electric vehicles. Truck drivers must be unionized. The response was entirely predictable.

    Truck drivers stayed home. Trucking firms quit investing in new equipment that would soon become illegal to operate in California. The longshoremen’s union held the ports hostage since they had a monopoly on west coast ports. Some ports report over a half million containers waiting to move as the ports operate below capacity.

    Rather than voting for regulations that benefit the public interest, politicians voted for the regulations that got them the largest campaign contributions from entrenched unions. That is socialism. Fortunately we’ve seen container ships divert to ports on the Gulf of Mexico so they could unload in Texas and Florida, but there is a real chance that shelves will be understocked for Christmas. The few goods we can buy will sell for higher prices.


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