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After an entire year of supply interruption, backups, and driver shortages, we are finally seeing the number of shipped goods trending positively in an upward trajectory. Over the past 3 months combined there has been almost 3% growth of truck tonnage, giving October 2021 the highest year-over-year since May 2020-2021.
While tonnage still isn't fully recovered and back to pre-pandemic numbers, the sustained growth through October is a sure sign that we have at least started the economic recovery from 2020. Another positive to keep in mind is that these figures show growth before the full implementation of H.R.3684, or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is set to accelerate recovery exponentially.
Now, let's take a closer look at some of the reasons for this rise in tonnage movement.
Looking back to just one year ago, one of the largest issues facing businesses large and small was a nearly complete inability to get goods due to factory shutdowns worldwide. With nothing being produced or shipped, there was naturally a drop in the need for trucks on the road. The importance of the goods still being moved became crystal clear when the shortages of paper goods and cleaning supplies struck.
Fortunately, those factory closures are a still recent but fading memory and now products are being made, shipped, and sold as much as they were before the pandemic.
However, just because overseas manufacturing was operational, it did not solve another critical piece of the puzzle; the US ports had problems of their own. Disproportionate container distribution, lack of available storage space, and a shortage of dockyard personnel were hurdles to overcome before any recovery could start.
But with those concerns being met, the goods were able to begin flowing once again which created something of an overcorrection, going from nothing to move to more than the infrastructure could feasibly handle. Now there was an overabundance of supply to be dealt with.
When supply resumed it did so as a tidal wave, quickly getting ports and warehouses to capacity... all of which had to be processed before being distributed across the country.
This influx of imports compounded the overcrowding issues on dockyards leading to a backup of inbound cargoships that further delayed much-needed goods and materials. However, with recent actions being taken by the government and port authorities, the congestion is slowly clearing out which has been allowing for higher volumes of cargo to pass into the country.
It stands to reason with more weight able to get off the ships, that the overall tonnage of goods transported would rise as well, and so it has. While October only saw growth of around 0.4%, that combined with September's gain of 2.2% demonstrates that ports and shippers have adapted to, and overcame the issues held over from 2020.
This has crews working around the clock moving all manner of products and there is always more to move, leading to a situation of more deliveries than drivers.
American truckers have been the backbone of the nation for its entire history, and they currently make up nearly 5% of the entire workforce.
Traditional long-haul drivers live more like nomadic people of old, spending most of the year away from their homes. Then there are the drivers that do only short runs, usually from warehouses to retail locations or straight to the consumer, which allows for more time spent closer to home and is just as important, if not more so, than the initial leg of the cargo's journey.
Some reports state that there is a shortage of available truck drivers while others cite an inability to retain drivers that they already employ as the true issue. There are actually a variety of reasons for the truck driver shortage but the fact is that the nearly 4 million licensed drivers are not enough to move the number of goods that currently sit in waiting. The need for drivers to carry freight from docks and railyards to retail locations and distribution centers has always been high, but with more reliance on direct-to-home shipping the demand for drivers for the "last mile" has skyrocketed.
For many being behind the wheel for the long haul or in-town delivery has become a secure career that, much like the past few months have, promises to continue to grow.
If you are looking for a career in the logistics industry, Redwood is currently hiring for multiple open positions. Click here to see what we have available.
The rise of tonnage numbers for October showed that the supply kinks are being corrected and economic recovery has begun, and with the 2021 holiday season set to break records it couldn't have come at a better time. This is in large part due to resumed production, decongestion of ports, and the dedication of the hardworking men and women that criss-cross this mighty nation to make the deliveries that keep commerce going.