Cargo ships pile up as truck drivers continue delivering goods

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic shutdowns have caused global disruptions to the supply chain. As a result, some governments made the decision to intervene in an attempt to correct the negative impacts.

Teamsters Western Region International Vice President Ron Herrera joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how the Teamsters are interpreting and handling irregularities in the shipping industry. He also discussed how the U.S. federal government is stepping in to help and what may come of their effort.

The truck driver shortage has been a yearslong problem

For years, Herrera said, the number of available truck drivers has been shrinking. The truck driving industry is unique, and some aspects of the industry tend to make career seekers think twice before breaking into the industry.

Many truck drivers are misclassified workers. While some drivers are employees of trucking companies, others work as owner operators. An owner operator purchases their own vehicle, pays for all of the fuel, all of the maintenance and accepts individual hauls. These added expenses cause some drivers to lose money by simply doing their job.

Herrera believes trucking companies need to take responsibility for the goods they ship. It is not fair to pay drivers a rate that causes them to operate without profit. He added that many of these drivers are immigrants, thinking they are working toward the American Dream of owning their own business.

Despite the struggles faced by truckers, Herrera said California does a good job protecting workers. Between creating COVID-19 safety provisions and passing misclassification and wage theft laws, he believes working people are in good hands.

Solving the west coast cargo buildup

Cargo ships are stacking up off the coast of Los Angeles. There were over 70 ships waiting to port by Herrera’s last count.

He said the federal government authorized the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to operate third shifts, meaning the ports are working 24/7. Herrera welcomes the effort, but worries the goods will remain backed up when truck drivers are limited by their mandatory rest times.


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