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Supply Chain Crisis Hits Home

Truck driver shortage opens door for local high paying jobs

By Rex Robinson | 11/4/2021

Joliet has one of the largest inland ports in the nation. Center Point Intermodal Center (CIC) – Joliet/Elwood is the largest master-planned inland port in North America.

Shipping containers stacked at Port of Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Dreamstime)

Getting goods and services to consumers both nationally and locally is topping the news cycle right now and for good reason as the country is experiencing a serious supply problem.

The national supply problem is hitting home with shortages experienced in the Joliet area.

The dilemma is having an impact locally. Things like the Thanksgiving Turkey, computer game systems, toys and other gifts for the holiday are still sitting, idling in ports on both coast waiting to be placed in shipping containers and transported by rail and truck to nearby intermodal warehouses.

Images of shipping containers piling up at seaports in places like California and Florida have many on edge wondering how long it will be before those containers start moving out on to the roads via trucks or onto rail cars and making their way to their expected destinations.

There are also concerns about shortages at stores for myriad products that everyone needs and uses in their daily lives. Some even say we could soon face food shortages.

The COVID pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, and this is just another one to add to the list.

The White House has been talking about the supply chain problem for a while now. In July, Susan Helper and Evan Soltas penned a piece for the White House titled “Why the Pandemic Has Disrupted Supply Chains.

Businesses, they reported at the time, had added jobs at a rate of 540,000 per month since January. “Many consumers are making large purchases with savings accumulated during the pandemic,” they said.

“While a fast pivot to growth is good news for businesses and workers, it also creates challenges. Entire industries that shrank dramatically during the pandemic, such as the hotel and restaurant sectors, are now trying to reopen. Some businesses report that they have been unable to hire quickly enough to keep pace with their rising need for workers, leading to an all-time record 8.3 million job openings in April. Others do not have enough of their products in inventory to avoid running out of stock. The situation has been especially difficult for businesses with complex supply chains, as their production is vulnerable to disruption due to shortages of inputs from other businesses.

John Greuling, President & CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said, “We still have a shortage of more than 80,000 truck driver jobs nationwide, but that’s been a continuous problem. There’s a high demand for goods. The demand for goods has outstripped expectations and thus we have a supply shortage.”

Nauteia Brass, who sits on the board of directors of the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce and is President of the Joliet-based Insure It, said the pandemic caused many manufacturers to halt production in 2020. “However, factories are still struggling to get back on track. As a result of this, the demand for products outweighs the supply,” she said. “There is also an issue of increased cost to move cargo. This is attributed largely to the scarcity of shipping containers that were used to send protective gear to various places around the world,” she said.

Brass added there are many Black workers employed at warehouses in the Will County area and her concern is that workers may face layoffs due to the current shortage of supply and a December 8th vaccine mandate for contractors that do business with the federal government. “This vaccine mandate could further weaken the supply chain,” she added.

The current supply chain crisis may have an upside for unemployed Black workers. The urgent need for long haul truckers is opening opportunities for those 18 years and older to be trained on the fast track to become highly paid long haul drivers.

“With the growing demand for workers in transportation logistics, now is the opportune time for those seeking to make a career shift from warehouse worker to the trucking industry. The trucking industry is a profitable industry, and I would encourage those that are interested in starting a business in the trucking industry to contact the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce to find out what resources and contracting opportunities are available to them,” said Brass.

Amazon and Walmart are now out hiring 150,000 workers to handle the holidays, Greuling said.

“The shortage of workers has impacted our supply chain and it’s hurt our local distribution centers.”

“We still have more job openings than we have workers to fill those jobs,” Greuling said.

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