tv Washington Journal Washington Journal Patrick Penfield CSPAN October 18, 2021 3:12pm-3:32pm EDT
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host: joining us now is patrick penfield of syracuse university here to talk about what you have heard about the last few weeks, delays in the supply chain. good morning. guest: glad to be on the show. host: what is the best way to think about a supply chain, particularly with the issues currently at play? guest: supply chains are simplistic. it is basically input, transformation, output. they have gotten complicated over the years, and a lot of bit has been due to cost reduction, trying to get the lowest cost and the best quality, so now we have a global supply chain crisis, problems and issues throughout various parts of the supply chain. host: what are the biggest problems adding up to the crisis? guest: yeah. the big one is a shortage of materials. we have a shortage of the basic
ingredients, chemicals, for semi conductor chips especially. we have long lead times that keep getting longer. an example would be come if you were to ship something from china last year, it would take about 35 days. now it takes about 73. we have congestion at the ports, 56 container ships outside the ports waiting to be unloaded. we have a lack of workers, 4.3 million vacancies we are unable to fill, and the lack of warehouse space. we have nowhere to put the stuff once we unloaded. -- we unloaded it. host: was part of the problem because of the pandemic directly or where there issues before that even? guest: we have had other issues with infrastructure, so it has been something that has been happening, but the pandemic has definitely been the impetus behind most of our problems right now, so i would say the pandemic, weather events, and
the cybersecurity attacks we seem to be having lately. host: relate this to the consumer at home. i know that the president talked last week about maybe the holiday shopping season. there are other issues as far as people reporting things not on shelves. what is the real worry for the consumer at this point in your mind? guest: i think there's two things. one is they will see a lot of prices going up, so that will be constant throughout the whole season, and the second thing is lack of ability, so you will see some stuff but not the variety we are accustomed to seeing. the hot stuff will be gone quickly. host: our guest with us until 10:00 here to talk about global supply chains and the issues you are hearing about. if you want to ask questions, if you live in the eastern or central time zones, (202) 748-8000. if you live in the mountain or pacific time zones, (202) 748-8001. you can text your response at (202) 748-8003. mr. penfield, with the president
himself talking a little bit at least from the government's point of view about how they are resolving this issue, i want to play a bit of what he said last weekend and get your response to that. [video clip] >> after weeks of negotiation and working with my team and with major union retailers, the ports of los angeles -- the port of los angeles announced today it will begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. this follows the port of long beach's commitment to 24/7 that was announced weeks ago. 24/7 system. what most of the leading countries of the world already operate under, except us. until now. this is a key step in moving our entire freight, transportation and logistical supply chain nationwide to a 24/7 system. host: that is part of the proposal, patrick penfield.
how much will that do as far as resolving issues? guest: i applaud the president for getting involved and trying to fix the situation at the ports. it will help a little bit. it will not resolve our issues because the supply chain is so complex, so the help he is stating will be there will definitely give us some relief as far as being able to unload more ships. the problem is that you will have a bottleneck that will form. that is what the ports are right now, they are a bottleneck. the next bottleneck is where are the drivers to move that freight and where do you place it? that is what will happen. host: moving into 24/7 operations, that exacerbates the problem? guest: well, i think it helps the unloading of the ships, but what will happen is that it will cause other issues because we have things sitting there that will still have to be moved, and that is common within supply chains.
usually, within -- usually, when you get rid of one bottleneck, another will form baird host: how does that work labor was? how does it typically work? guest: those two ports are not very well automated. that is one thing. i would stress that we need to do a better job of automating those facilities. right now, it is very labor-intensive, so again, that is an issue. and there is only so much people can work. 24/7 continuous operations, that is a lot of hard work for people on a weekly basis, so another issue with this is making sure they have enough labor to support that operation. host: increasing operations to that extent, i assume, if i do that, i am also increasing my costs. guest: absolutely. you are paying time and a half, doubletime, so it will be more
costly for them to do 24/7 operations. host: there was a recent piece in barron's. the writer said greater automation is key to speed. once on land, smart cargo handling and transport technology, including automated port management, will make the process more green and efficient, indicating that elevated lanes and major interstate highway improvements to close the last-mile gap. guest: that is something of necessity to be done in those two ports, long-overdue, something that will hopefully happen the next couple years. host: as far as the automation, what does that technology look like? guest: again, this is robotics that you have in place. this would be automated guided vehicles. this is technology that is there now.
if you look at some of the ports in the other parts of the world, specifically singapore, you will see a lot of that technology already being deployed. host: our first call for you is from chuck in florida. patrick penfield of syracuse university, you are on with our guest, chuck. go ahead. caller: one of the problems we are having is a lack of truck drivers, correct? guest: you are correct. caller: what i don't understand is a truck driver can get drunk as a skunk on friday night or saturday night and is allowed to drive monday morning, but if a guy smokes a little pot friday night or saturday night, he cannot drive. how do we solve this problem? in other words, i know a lot of people who like to smoke a little joint friday night, but then they can't drive. guest: again, that's an issue outside of this, but i think, for the most part, yeah, we
always want to make sure we protect the public safety as much as we possibly can. that is a dilemma we have with marijuana legalization, is again to understand the reppo -- the repercussions of a situation like that. so i think the reason for that is in the interest of public safety for the most part. this is something that, in the future, they could do more studies to understand what is happening with this. the best way to get more truck drivers is may to lower the age limit from 21 to 18. that would go a long way. another way to get more truck drivers is maybe to use the military, some of the truck drivers they have to help with the shortage. i can tell you this. we have had a truck driver shortage probably for the past 20 years. what exacerbated that was when covid hit. we had a lot of truck drivers that retired. because they retired, we now have almost an increased shortage of these truck drivers,
so that would be my recommendation. let's lower the legal age limit from 21 to 18, see if we can get military truck drivers to help with some of the shortages, and maybe that would allow us to move this freight faster. host: do you think automated truck transport is something that will come into play in the future/ guest: absolutely. the big issue stalling automatic truck transport is regulation. there is no regulation allowing autonomous trucks across state boundaries. you have laws allowing states to use them, but no regulation regarding the state-to -state situation. if we could get that enacted, that would go a long way. host: from libya, washington, this is elaine, good morning. caller: i have a question.
i have heard that some truckers and their rigs were prohibited from going to the ports because the trucks were considered old or the driver wasn't immunized. that's number one. in the second one you just brought up -- and the second one you just brought up. can they get transit tickets crossing from stateline to stateline and is there a prohibition still on what they can carry? guest: good questions. i know there have been poor issues and i am hoping the port authority of l.a. and long beach will be more lenient with regard to the types of trucks and drivers they allow. i have been hearing that when the truck drivers are not there at their scheduled time, they are told to leave, so i think we have to be more lenient, more
focused on getting trucks loaded and out. i would suggest that to the port authority if they could do that to make that change to allow for some leniency when people show up. the second thing as far as a state to state, yeah, you can do that but not with autonomous trucks, and that is because every state, the ones that have autonomous truck legislation, it is different. so those of -- so those are some of the problems. host: when it comes to the ports and workers involved in everything else, how much of a role do labor unions play in this process? guest: labor unions play a big role. the longshoreman union is very strong. that is a very big concern, will they work with the port authority? they are focused on making sure
their union membership is protected, so there's two sides to this equation, but absolutely, if you don't have their help, it will be a deterrent to what the port authority will be trying to accomplish. also understand that the longshoremen's contract in los angeles and long beach is up in july. it could be a potentially contentious situation, so i hope they work for the common good. host: we had a viewer asking a question, it are vaccine mandates responsible partially for the disruption? guest: absolutely. we are seeing that in different types of operations from a supply chain standpoint. the best thing is to get vaccinated and i cannot stress that enough because it is for
the greater good and it protects your coworkers. i am hopeful that in the next month or so we will start to see some of that go away. host: let's hear from justin in california. you are on with our guest, patrick penn field -- patrick penn syracuse university. caller: thank you. big fan of c-span. my question was about trucking and connecting the cargo container to the truck that will bring it out of the port. when they are unloading all these cargo containers, they cannot just throw it on the truck. how did they match that container with that truck and get it going to the right place on the news we got the last week that they interviewed a truck driver who said he was waiting in line for five hours before he was able to pick up his load. i can see how that would be a logistical challenge. my second question, if you could
, some smuggling evidently does come in through the major ports, a lot of the illegal drugs that enter our country. i think for smugglers, this must be a golden opportunity because i don't think we are inspecting our cargo containers as closely as we would like. i would like your thoughts. guest: sure. in the past, when we had ships unload, it was a pretty smooth transition. a year, year and a half ago, we would have maybe one ship waiting at anchor to be unloaded. so you unload the ship, the 20 foot containers would be there, you would have a truck driver coming in, they would match up what they have from their ability to pick up, the paperwork, you would load it and off they would go. that is not the case now. what is going on is going on as we are unloading all these freighters, but the 20-foot
containers are everywhere, so this is causing part of the issue. now, there is no first up system for these containers. they are getting unloaded and placed somewhere and now you basically have to hunt for a container when a truck driver comes in for their pickup. that is what is causing these issues and why this particular person had a five hour delay, just trying to hunt and find that container. that is the issue you have where you have capacity just inundated. you are able to process to the extent you were in the past. as far as smuggling goes, i don't know. that is a concern, absolutely, but part of the issue is, even if you are a smuggler, how are you getting your stuff and are you getting it quickly? there are a lot of issues with just the stuff sitting there. if you are a small company, you are probably struggling with trying to get your 20-foot container.
if you are a large company like walmart, target, usually you have people on site to work with the port people to get their product on trucks faster. host: to that point, the president talked about the role of retailers in this. i will play a little bit and get your thoughts on it. [video clip] >> the positive impact felt across the country and by all of you at home, for that, we need major retailers to order the goods and the freight movers who take the goods to factories and stores to step up as well. these private companies are the ones the higher the trucks and railcars and move the goods. on this score, we have some good news reported as well. today, walmart, our nation's largest retailer, is committing to going all in to moving its products 24/7 from the ports to their stores nationwide. specifically, walmart is
committing as much as a 50% increase in the use of off-peak hours over the next several weeks. additionally, fedex and ups, two of our nation's biggest freight movers, our committing today to -- movers, are committing today to increasing the amount of goods they move overnight. they ship to some of our largest stores but also for tens of thousands of small businesses across america. their commitment to go all in on 24/7 operations mean that businesses of all sizes will get their goods on shelves faster and more reliably. host: mr. penfield, that is what the president said. what is the reality of how that plays out? guest: absolutely. again, i applause -- i applied the president for giving the information. these are something -- these are things the companies are doing anyway because they have to. this is a great move.
the largest impact is, again, when you pay people at night, you pay the more. when you have more capacity, you will have to pay more. this is something that these companies were already doing, having these plans in place. i applaud the president for getting involved in trying to make sure this happens. again, i applaud also the supply chain professionals in the u.s. this has been a difficult time for these particular people and they are doing everything in --everything and anything to make things happen, and i mean that. it is an arduous task and they are going above and beyond. this is one thing that i think they really need to be thanked for, all the stuff they are trying to do for the holiday season. host: there's a story and the washington tim announcer: you can watch the rest online at c-span.org. we take you live