The increasing worry over a double dip recession in the US may accentuate problems in the finished vehicle supply chain in North America; the lack of truck capacity, aging equipment and a shortage of skilled hauliers.
Domestic OEMs such as Ford have been telling Finished Vehicle Logistics since May that they were seeing delays as a result of truck shortages. Recently, transplant OEMs including Honda, BMW and Audi have also confirmed strains. Mathias Wellbrock, BMW’s head of worldwide distribution, called the shortage “acute and much more obvious than in Europe”.
Audi spokesperson Gary Saentz said that the carmaker has bottlenecks across the country as a result of truck shortages. “We are pretty well set up to handle cars at the ports and railheads, but the problem we have is with trucking,” he said. “We’re not experiencing a giant leap in volumes but it is adding urgency to the issue.”
But a solution may not be as simple as carriers buying trucks or rehiring furloughed drivers. A long-term decline in pay, particularly as OEMs moved away from unionised carriers, coupled with the wide-scale demolition done to the sector during the downturn, has made recruiting car hauliers a difficult task. Trucking cars is a more complex and time consuming process than other commodities, and the premium pay that drivers once enjoyed has largely disappeared (see capacity feature on p62). The issue is one that will have to be addressed by OEMs, carriers and unions.
Both BMW and Audi have expressed interest in working directly with carriers. “Working with other car companies and with the trucking vendors, we are looking into what we can do to get more people in the business of driving trucks,” said Audi’s Saentz.
He added that there is a push to get younger people into the sector. Perhaps that is the best option–they may not be able to remember what the better times were like for the profession.