It’s Not Perfect, but the USDOT is Seeing Some Signs of Progress in the Supply Chain

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently put out its latest Transportation Supply Chain Indicators Tracker, which is part of the Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

The Tracker is a joint effort throughout several departments participating in the Task Force. The goal of the Tracker is to provide information to the public about critical information regarding supply chains. Specifically, the Tracker covers updates on U.S. Container Imports/Exports at Ports, container ships awaiting berths and dwell times, and also, specifically, at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, labor workforce, rail intermodal volumes and terminal dwell time.

U.S. Imports/Exports and Containers and Ships

U.S. Imports and Exports:

The USDOT has indicated that there has been an increase in containerized imports to U.S. Ports, for an extended period of time – especially compared to pre-pandemic.

Specifically, at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the month of April was the port’s second-busiest April in the entire history of the port, even as it saw a 6.3% decline from the same month as last year.

Ports on the U.S. East Coast are continuing to see robust record volumes, but are still dealing with their own fair share of congestion.

Containers and Ships:

Towards the end of 2021 and in the beginning of 2022, the number of container ships waiting for a dock at a U.S. port more than doubled, hitting a peak at more than 150 in early February, the USDOT stated. It continues to say that levels are still higher than historical levels for many ports, even though some levels have declined since then.

For example, since October 2021, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – which accounts for nearly 37% of all U.S. containerized imports – have seen nearly 70,000 fewer containers dwelling more than 9 days or more on the ports, which is an improvement by 53%, the USDOT says.

Labor Workforce

As of April 2022, the trucking industry has recovered more than 50,000 workers since a year prior, and is sitting at about 40,000 higher than at the start of the pandemic, USDOT reports say. The USDOT also noted the importance of monitoring job openings and employment trends throughout the industry, as it helps to understand how labor capacity may be impacting fluidity in the supply chain.

Rail Intermodal Volume and Terminal Dwell Time

The USDOT and the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force remains committed and focused to improve poor rail service.

Some interesting findings from the USDOT in their report:

  • Intermodal movements by freight rail have generally trended at or above pre-pandemic levels, as terminal dwell times for railcars have risen since spring of 2021 for most Class I railroads, USDOT reports.
  • For key rail lines, train speed is down, and trains are spending more time delayed at terminals
  • In certain parts of the country, agricultural commodities such as grains and fertilizer have been impacted by the poor rail performance as unfilled grain car orders in 2022 are the highest on record, even years that dealt with bad weather

The USDOT stated that these rail service issues have made it relatively difficult to clear the docks at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but have hope that things will improve.

Looking Ahead

Even though things are definitely not perfect in the supply chain, there are still some signs of progress in the goods movement chain. The USDOT continues to focus on ways to ensure U.S. exporters are able to get their good to market, as well as remaining their attention on lowering levels of long-dwelling containers at ports – especially those that are empty that would be able to be re-loaded with U.S. products that are ready for export, they stated.

If you would like more information regarding this topic, contact our team at InterlogUSA and we will be happy to assist you on any questions or comments you may have! In addition, we have our weekly market updates that can provide you with relevant freight news, updates, developments across the industry, and more.


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