Supply chain slowdowns continue to present challenges for logistics experts around the world. Truck driver shortages are a component of this growing problem, and experts predict this challenge will continue through 2022. American Truck Associations estimate a shortage of about 80,000 drivers this year, with a total shortage of 160,000 by 2030. So how can supply chain managers adapt to these challenges? Below we take a look at a few strategies that can help supply chain managers navigate truck driver shortages and cope with supply chain difficulties.
How Supply Chain Managers Can Navigate Truck Driver Shortages
Adapt with Rail
Shippers that are used to crossing long distances using trucking have likely noticed delays and expenses are both increasing. In many cases, rail transportation can be an inexpensive alternative. Shipping by rail is particularly economical across long distances, allowing supply chain managers to eliminate trucking for the entirety, or at least the majority of, the journey.
Rail transportation can also be effective across shorter distances. Many short line railroads can help customers find alternative routes across shorter distances. This is a win-win relationship between shippers and independent railroads; short line railroads improve the competitive position in a landscape dominated by the larger Class 1 railroads, and shippers get helpful information in using alternatives to trucking.
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Alternative shipping modes, such as rail transportation, can help supply chain managers navigate truck driver shortages, but this is not an option for every location. In some cases, larger adjustments may be required to open up additional shipping opportunities.
Take a closer look at your shipping locations and see if you can adjust to take advantage of marine or rail shipping services. In some cases, although central transit hubs may extend the total shipping distance, they can actually result in lower costs by circumventing trucking.
Whether you are shipping raw materials, finished goods, or something in between, reviewing your suppliers and sources can also help you navigate truck driver shortages. Though reviewing your supply chain in such detail may seem like a drastic solution to a relatively short-term problem, the time and effort spent can have other benefits as well.
Also consider alternative materials, as well as alternative sources. Locally based suppliers may be more expensive at first glance, but reducing transportation costs can be more economical long-term. For example, builders that have encountered lumber shortages due to supply chain problems might consider working with recycled materials or plastics suppliers from nearby sources.
Work with Experts
When challenges present themselves across other parts of your business, you might work with experts to overcome them. Supply chain challenges are similar. If you’ve struggled with the truck driver shortage, but you’re not sure how to take advantage of other modes, other experts can help.
Consider outsourcing some aspects of your supply chain to use different modes or leverage relationships that other logistics experts may have. This might mean working with other shipping companies or working with experts to rework and remap some parts of your supply chain.
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Insource Small-Scale Trucking
If the logistics companies you relied on previously have struggled to maintain their team, you may have more success by integrating some shipping into your own company. This may be especially true if you’re shipping on a somewhat smaller scale; employing one or two truck drivers locally will likely be easier than organizing an entire truck driving line in your company.
Look for Flexible Warehousing
When trucking slows down, you may have to keep your products or materials longer. Look for warehousing solutions that will not incur heavy costs. More affordable warehouse solutions might be farther away from your shipping points or destinations. Weigh this against the costs of your current warehousing solutions.
Offer Multiple Shipping Options
Consumers or customers may be willing to wait longer for their shipments if it means reducing their overall costs. This can also add flexibility into your supply chain. Some customers may need their products immediately, while others can afford to wait. By offering multiple shipping options, you can prioritize your shipping operations and reduce the need for fast shipping overall.
Looking for other routes, modes, and suppliers will help you navigate truck driver shortages in 2022, but it will also give you the flexibility you need to overcome other challenges in the future. Take a close look at your supply chain and pinpoint areas where you can make changes to reduce costs and improve speed.