Courtesy of Bloomberg News, April 3, 2020
Trucking Bottlenecks Slow Food Supply Chain Worldwide
Truckers hauling food are facing delays across the globe in the latest disruption to supply chains snarled by the coronavirus pandemic. The problems highlight the vulnerability of the complicated process needed to take goods from farm to table. Almost all food and agricultural products are transported by road at some point, whether that’s from a field to a grain terminal, a processing plant to a port, or from a wholesaler to a store.
The severity of the problem depends on where you are. In the U.S., pressures on drivers have taken a toll, but for the most part, the supply chain is flowing, just with small pockets of slowdowns. Trucks crossing the border from Germany to Poland, however, were seeing wait times of 10 hours or more, meaning meat would come to market with time knocked off the “best before” dates, though some delays have eased.
In India, vegetable oils are getting stuck at ports because of a shortage of trucks coming in. Many drivers in Uganda depend on public transportation to get to their places of work. That transport has been shuttered under the nation’s lockdown measures.
Some disruptions have already started to ease as governments work to ensure that food transport is covered under lockdown allowances for essential businesses and policy makers do more to help support truck drivers. Pennsylvania has reopened truck stops after briefly closing them statewide. The European Commission has worked to create “green-lane” crossings at border checks to minimize delays. Special lanes for truckers have also been used in parts of Malaysia.
Argentina, the world’s’ top exporter of soybean meal, is another example of progress. While federal regulations labeled food transport an essential service, local mayors were putting up restrictions. They blocked access to roads, afraid that truckers would spread the virus to their towns. The problem was acute in farming regions, halting grain terminals from delivering supplies to ports. Those issues have started to clear up, and port-bound trucks are now loading.
Businesses are also working to help support truckers. Some clients are providing drivers with bottled water and snacks to help ease the blow from restaurant closures, said Steve Wells, the chief operating officer of Baltimore-based trucking company Cowan Systems. And in the U.S., traffic is light with most people staying at home. With few passenger cars, trucks are actually making faster transit times, helping mitigate the delays for loading and unloading.
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