SOUTH ST PAUL, Minn. — A crucial link in the supply chain is the trucking industry. But with a severe shortage of drivers to a lack of trucks, experts say it is facing the most challenging labor picture of all.
And it's impacting what you may, or may not, find on store shelves.
At Allstate Peterbilt's South St. Paul repair shop, an unprecedented 80 or so trucks are stuck, left to wait for parts from suppliers that are scrambling during a global supply chain mess.
"They can't get the materials, they don't have enough labor to build the parts that go on the trucks," explained Peterbilt's Director of Truck Sales Tom Wentworth. "So all those things are now happening like a perfect storm."
From a resin shortage to build roof caps on the trucks to vinyl to make seats and several types of electrical components – the repairs that would usually take less than a week are now lasting months.
Some truckers could easily lose $2,000 dollars every day their rig isn't on the road, if not more.
"When things are good, it's a great business to be in and you can make great money. But when you're down, those expenses add up really fast," said Wentworth.
The challenges don't end there.
There's a lack of new trucks to sell, so revenue is down. And there's a big demand for technicians and drivers. The Minnesota Trucking Association says the country is down about 60,000 drivers, in part due to COVID-canceled driving school classes and early retirements.
"The pool of drivers isn't really growing," said Wentworth.
Experts say the demand for goods, though, is in overdrive for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers are playing catchup since coming back online after the COVID-19 shutdown.
The backlog is now set to impact yet another holiday shopping season.
"If you're going to the store and seeing empty shelves, there's a good chance part of that problem is a truck trying to get that merchandise to you," said Wentworth. "Everybody needs to be understanding; there's not much most of us can do about getting things faster."
If you're thinking about starting your holiday shopping early, remember inventory is lean. If you see something you want, buy it now.
Don't wait for Black Friday to buy appliances if you want them by the end of the year.
Video game consoles will be impossible to find.
And winter apparel will likely not be restocked when it sells out.