Shoppers may have noticed that some shelves aren’t fully stocked and what is on the shelf may be a little more expensive.
Both problems are side-effects of the supply-chain issues affecting much of the globe. Part of the problem is a desperate need for truck drivers.
Roberto Rodriguez of the Duran Freight Corporation said there are roughly a thousand trailers sitting in their lots in Otay Mesa.
“It’s very frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “We have the equipment, we have the loads, we have the work, but we don’t have the drivers.”
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Rodriguez said DFC usually gets at least 900 tractor trailers on the road every day. Tuesday, he said, they’d be lucky to send 300 on their way.
“We’re frustrated because we need to deliver all the things that we have down here,” Rodriguez said.
More than $50 billion worth of goods is transported through Otay Mesa every year, according to its chamber of commerce. The chamber’s executive director said 6,000 18-wheelers usually cross the U.S. border with Mexico every day.
Rodriguez said a lot of truck drivers quit during the pandemic, some of them moving on to higher-paying jobs that smaller companies like his can’t compete with. He said the United States historically operates without enough truck drivers, but the pandemic made the problem much worse. He said a lot of businesses have shut down and stopped shipping, and when they do ship, he said, there aren’t enough employees to get goods out on time, unload them on time or deliver them on time.
Rodriguez doesn’t see the problem getting better anytime soon.
“Not just one month; one more year,” he predicted.
“We’re just trying to get more people in the industry,” said Phillip Harris of United Truck Driving School in Lakeside.
Harris applauded a change in federal law that lowered the truck-driving age to 18, allowing companies to recruit drivers out of high school.
“I believe that this will help overall,” Harris said. “Just putting more people in the seats in the trucks.”
Rodriguez said he wished a federal law would change that would allow Mexican drivers to travel farther into the United States.
Rodriguez admitted that they’re desperate to find drivers.
“We have gone to gas stations, diesel stations, everywhere, looking for them,” Rodriguez said.
In the meantime, Rodriguez said he is grateful for the drivers who do show up.
The American Trucking Association said the country needs to hire at least 100,000 drivers every year for the next decade to keep up with demand.