Tucson business continues to battle supply chain crisis, works to attract drivers

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 7:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Trucking is the lifeblood of the supply chain, and drivers are heroes as they work to move vaccines and goods that people need.

That was one of the main focuses of a recent meeting President Joe Biden had regarding the supply chain crisis rooted in the global pandemic.

The president met with members of his cabinet, the National Economic Council Director, Port Envoy and private sector leaders to discuss progress made over the last few months.

To help alleviate the bottleneck, the Biden Administration announced $230 million in port infrastructure development grants, a Truck Action Plan to recruit and retain more drivers plus fees on ocean carriers if their cargo sits on docks longer than eight days.

“By working with business and labor, my administration has been able to handle the huge surge in goods moving through some of our biggest ports,” Biden said.

According to a Transportation Supply Chain Dashboard, in November, 765,000 imports arrived at ports of LA and Long Beach, and more than 9.3 million containers so far this year – 15 percent more than they imported over the same period in 2018, the previous record holder.

“Inventories are healthy and on-shelf availability before the pandemic was about 91 percent,” Biden said just before Christmas.

Could the president’s optimism rub off on the American public?

According to the results of a December CNN Politics Poll conducted by SSRS, three-quarters of Americans are worried about the state of the economy in their own community, and 63 percent said the nation’s economy is in poor shape.

While many companies are still waiting for what is inside these containers, Matt Snoots is waiting for the containers themselves.

Snoots is the general manager at AAA Desert Container in Tucson.

“We help people that are needing storage. We also build mobile offices and custom workshops,” Snoots said.

Snoots said the local business is still being impacted by the global supply chain crisis.

“Whenever the supply started to cut down, I noticed a big decrease in sales just because the price increase,” Snoots said.

Snoots said before the pandemic, a 40-foot used container would have sold for about $4,500. He said in today’s market, the same container sells for $7,750.

Snoots said business dropped off dramatically toward the beginning of the pandemic, but now consumers are realizing the higher prices are not going away anytime soon.

Low inventory, high prices and a shortage of workers are issues Snoots deals with on a daily basis.

“Whenever we would originally buy a box, we would get the release number within the next day or two. From there, we didn’t have any shortage of drivers. We could typically do three or four runs a week, sometimes five,” Snoots said.

Snoots said now the company is down to one driver.

“A busy week for him is like three loads,” Snoots said. Once the driver arrives at the port in California, he is often greeted by long lines.

Snoots said it also can take weeks to get release numbers, which also adds to the delays.

Watching machines move the massive shipping containers around at the Port of Long Beach looks a lot like the game of Tetris, something Snoots said vendors are tired of playing.

“I am hearing they need more places to store these boxes where they are being offloaded. I’ve had vendors actually asked to use my yard, but of course transport, they don’t want to have to pay all of that,” Snoots said.

The Port of Savannah, with federal help, is addressing that very problem with “pop-up container yards” to bypass port jams.

While so much of this is out of Snoots’ control, he said the company is focused on what they can do, like attracting drivers.

“It’s a high competition area. Everyone is looking for them,” he said. “You gotta keep your people happy. We are working on that one. Higher wages and incentives.”

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