As bad as the supply chain crisis has become under President Joe Biden, it will get a lot worse if millions of truck drivers follow through with their threat to leave the industry if his administration continues to try and enforce his vaccine mandate.
“We’ve tried to be very clear to the administration — I understand the logic behind it — but if you do this, these are the consequences,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear told a House committee earlier this week.
“So if you’re trying to solve the supply chain problem, you’re actually compounding it and actually hurting the very problem you’re trying to fix,” Spears told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to the Washington Examiner.
At present, the U.S. has some 80,000 fewer truckers than before the COVID-19 pandemic; if the Biden administration is able to enforce its Jan. 4 vaccine deadline on private businesses with more than 100 employees, then, according to an ATA survey, the trucking industry will lose 37 percent more drivers, or about 2.5 million.
The survey “came back as 37% of drivers not only said ‘no,’ but ‘hell no,’” Spear told lawmakers on the panel. “It’s not about being anti-vax — we’ve been moving the vaccine test kits.”
To the point of the supply chain’s continuing workforce shortages and other issues that have created chokepoints up and down the line, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) laid blame at the feet of Biden and California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who he said are more concerned with vaccinating children and climate change. He noted that ports off Los Angeles, which are the busiest in the entire Western Hemisphere, are currently so backed up there are more than 106 container ships waiting to be offloaded, citing the latest statistics.
“Newsom has been pretty inattentive on all this … and the Biden administration is not really helping either,” LaMalfa noted. “Truckers are independent individuals. They are like the cowboys of the highways and don’t want to be pushed around.”
ATA’s Spear also told the panel that levying fines on shipping companies for full containers after lingering too long at ports is also not a good policy because those costs will simply be passed on to consumers and at a time when inflation is already at multi-decade highs. Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach levied those fines last month in an attempt to clean up the container vessel backlog.
“It’s just another layer we’re going to have to bear. I don’t think it’s a good solution,” Spear said. “It’s just one chokepoint of many.”
He went on to say that the problem is there are just too many containers stacked at ports waiting to be emptied and not enough time or personnel to do so.
“So assessing fines and fees associated with that is probably just going to be exacerbating the problem with inflation?” Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) asked.
“I don’t think it does anything, congressman. I really don’t,” Spear said in response.
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