US Dept. of Transportation shares Supply Chain Tracker progress; improvements include ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach importing more containers than any previous January and total number of ships waiting for berths at US ports down 35% since February

Sample article from our Logistic & Supply Chain

April 8, 2022 (press release) –

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is pleased to share the latest Transportation Supply Chain Indicators Tracker, as part of the Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen stressed supply chains, as historic levels of goods coming into the U.S., aging infrastructure, the pandemic, and geopolitical disruptions continue to cause bottlenecks, congestion, and challenges in global markets.  

Despite challenges, there are signs of progress in our goods movement chain. America’s ports—including the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach collectively—imported more containers than any previous January. The total number of container ships waiting for berths at U.S. ports has dropped by 35% since peaking in early February and freight railroads’ weekly intermodal movements in March approached their highest levels of 2022. Goods are successfully being delivered to shelves and real retail inventories excluding autos are at their highest levels in history and 6 percent above pre-pandemic levels.

This progress builds on continued action by USDOT and the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to move ports toward 24/7 operations, improve recruitment and retention in the trucking workforce, and speed the movement of goods by rail and other modes. Earlier this month, USDOT was proud to announce a data sharing effort called Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW). FLOW has initial participants including Target, FedEx, UPS, True Value, ocean shippers, and ports -- that represent diverse perspectives across the supply chain. This effort will foster an information exchange to ease supply chain congestion, speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately cut costs for American consumers. In February, USDOT announced the availability of a historic $450 million in funds for American ports, and published a comprehensive report with recommendations for the future of American supply chains. 

One key bottleneck in the transportation supply chain has been trucking capacity—an industry where employment was declining before the pandemic and has been stretched by historic demand for goods. This week, USDOT and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced progress on the Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan to focus on retaining drivers by making truck driving a better job and to recruit more drivers into the profession. Key achievements include more than 90 employers launching Registered Apprenticeship programs in 90 days, a 112 percent increase in commercial driver’s licenses issued in January and February 2022 compared to 2021, a new Women of Trucking Advisory Board, and a new Veterans Trucking Task Force to help bring more veterans into the trucking industry. Trucking employment is now around 30,000 higher than the start of the pandemic.

While this is important progress, we still see challenges on the horizon and USDOT continues to monitor potential disruptions. COVID-19 outbreaks across Asia and Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression could impact our supply chains here in the United States. USDOT continues to work with partner agencies and stakeholders from industry and labor to help speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately make goods more affordable for the American people. And this is why the State Department has set up an “early warning” system where embassies send updates to agencies and the White House on potential supply chain disruptions in key transportation and manufacturing hubs.

BACKGROUND ON THE TRACKER

Over the course of the past year, as part of the President’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force (Task Force), the Department of Transportation (USDOT), and the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, have been part of an Administration-wide effort to improve the flow of goods, make our supply chains more resilient, and lower prices for Americans. 

Freight and logistics supply chains are largely operated by the private sector. To support greater transparency about the state of our transportation supply chains, last fall, the Task Force released a dashboard tracking real-time challenges and progress across four key metrics. USDOT is continuing to track those four metrics and others to help depict a more complete picture of the current logistics and transportation state-of-play. USDOT’s Transportation Supply Chain Indicators Tracker (Tracker) provides updates on key supply chain data -- including measures  and indicators of intermodal throughput such as volumes of  U.S. imports and exports, transportation labor numbers, the number of container ships anchored and loitering near U.S. ports, and more.

The Tracker is a collaboration across many departments participating in the Task Force and is intended to provide information about critical supply chains to the public. It will be updated over time, including additions and adjustments as data and information are refined. USDOT and other members of the Task Force are working closely with private companies and public agencies to address supply chain disruptions and improve the movement of goods across the country. 

The following measures are provided in this update:

  1. U.S. container imports & exports at ports, overall
  2. U.S. container imports, at major ports
  3. Container ships awaiting berths at U.S. ports 
  4. Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach container dwell time
  5. Sector job openings, hires, and quits
  6. Truck employment count
  7. Rail intermodal volume

Non-Transportation Supply Chain Measures

         8.     U.S. retail inventories

Imports and Exports: Monitoring containerized imports and exports helps identify potential capacity constraints and stresses to U.S. supply chains. 

1/ There has been a sustained increase in containerized imports to U.S. ports.

Chart depicts the total volume of containerized imports and exports (measured as Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs)) moved through U.S. ports for each month since January 2019.

2/ Increased container import volume has been observed at many ports, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
 

Chart depicts total volume of containerized imports (measured as Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs)) at select U.S. ports overall since January 2019.

 

Ships and Containers: Monitoring the number of ships waiting for berths at U.S. ports, and the rate at which imported containers move inland from the ports, can help measure disruptions in supply chains, including at original port of call, port of destination, and inland modes. 

3/ Since the middle of 2021, the number of container ships waiting for a dock at a U.S. port has more than doubled, peaking at more than 150 in early February, although levels have declined since then. 

Chart depicts the total number of container ships waiting for an available dock at U.S. ports overall (solid line) and select major port complexes (dashed lines). 

4/ In late October 2021, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which account for around 37% of all U.S. containerized imports, announced intentions to levy fees on long dwelling containers. Since that time, 70,000 fewer are dwelling more than 9 days or more on the ports—a 54% improvement. 

Chart depicts the total number of imported containers sitting at terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for 9 days or more, (i.e. long-dwelling). The chart shows the approximate total of long dwelling containers reported on the first Monday of each month since November 2021. Estimated TEU measure is calculated using a standard practice of multiplying total units reported by the ports by a factor of 1.8.

Workforce: Monitoring job openings and employment trends across the sector helps understand how labor capacity may impact supply chain fluidity. 

5/ In 2021, job openings increased substantially, outpacing a slight increase in hiring, in the Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities sector.  
 

Chart depicts job openings and labor turnover in the Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities sector of the economy, by month.

6/ As of February 2022, the trucking industry has recovered 50,000 workers since one year earlier, and sits at around 30,000 higher than at start of the pandemic.
 

Chart depicts the number of employees working in the truck transportation subsector of the economy, on a monthly basis, and includes the drivers, mechanics, managers, and laborers/movers involved in this sector. Self-employed drivers, known as owner-operators, are not included in this measure.

Rail: Measuring and monitoring intermodal units moved by rail helps identify capacity constraints on U.S. railroads and potential stresses to U.S. supply chains, overall.

7/ Intermodal movements by freight rail have generally trended at or above pre-pandemic (2019) levels.

Chart depicts how many shipping containers and truck trailers are moved on rail cars in a given week on U.S. Class I Railroads. Approximately half of all railroad traffic is intermodal.

 

 

Non-Transportation Supply Chain Indicators

8/ Retail inventories excluding autos were more than 6 percent above pre-pandemic levels at the end of February. Higher frequency data from grocery and drug stores show that the share of products that were in stock was 90 percent the week ending March 27, 2022 compared to 91 percent the week ending February 23, 2020.
 

 

Chart depicts the inflation-adjusted value of the goods in retailers’ warehouses and on their shelves excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers

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