When news broke that the federal government is getting involved to encourage the Port of Los Angeles to move to 24-hour operations, my immediate reaction was: You mean it hasn't done that already? I know I wasn't the only person to think that.
A backlog in unloading shipping containers has stymied deliveries for months, while driver shortages for trucks has been a continuing headache nationwide.
The question is why it takes federal intervention to (hopefully) get things moving at the port. The answer isn't as simple as "add a third shift" or "hire more drivers," of course.
The neighboring Port of Long Beach added more hours at its dock in September to try and ease the shipping clog, but that pilot program involves one dock — not the entire complex — with extended overnight hours. And there are also complications with finding drivers willing to work at, say, 3 a.m. as well as issues in finding empty shipping containers to return to the port, required as part of the program. The Washington Post notes that the first night the Port of Long Beach offered extended hours, no trucks took advantage.
Top importers such as Walmart, UPS and Amazon have agreed to improve their timing in collecting items from the port to clear space for incoming containers. President Joe Biden's administration also is pressuring states to ease the process for individuals to get proper licensing to drive big trucks, which could help with a shortage of drivers.
"The situation we're in, it's a system, and every link has to align," Noel Hacegaba, deputy executive director at the Port of Long Beach, told the Los Angeles Times.
So, yes. It is a very complicated process to get things moving smoothly again at ports. But this has been building for months. Why did it take the equivalent of warning to consumers that Christmas — or some Christmas shopping at any rate — would be canceled to finally, hopefully get things moving?