White House working with ports, retailers to address supply chain crisis

Tim Rue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The US government is stepping up its efforts to relieve the supply chain nightmare that has led to shortages of some goods, higher prices for consumers and now threatens to slow the economic recovery.

Posted: Oct 13, 2021 4:10 PM

The US government is stepping up its efforts to relieve the supply chain nightmare that has led to shortages of some goods, higher prices for consumers and now threatens to slow the economic recovery.

The White House will work with companies and ports on a "90-day sprint" to alleviate bottlenecks, according to a senior administration official. Some will start working 24/7 to address the backlogs.

In a speech Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced the Port of Los Angeles will move to 24/7 service, bringing it into line with operations at the Port of Long Beach, which is already working on a 24/7 schedule. Those two ports handle 40% of container traffic in the US.

Around the world, ports are congested as a result of the rapid rebound in demand for commodities and goods as much of the global economy has recovered from the pandemic. Shipping costs have soared, and companies wanting to move goods around are struggling because there just aren't enough ships or containers available. All the while prices are going up for consumers.

"Today's announcement has the potential to be a game-changer," Biden said in remarks at the White House.

He said the additional port hours will increase the time spent unloading container ships by 60 hours a week, and will represent a doubling of hours the ports of Los Angeles and the neighboring Port of Long Beach were operating earlier this year.

Biden met with senior officials and stakeholders to discuss collective efforts to address global transportation bottlenecks and then deliver remarks on Wednesday. Port operators, truckers' associations, labor unions and executives from Walmart, FedEx, UPS and Target attended the talks.

He said that Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, had committed to a 50% increase in moving goods during off-peak hours. The President said FedEx and UPS will also increase their overnight operations.

"All of these goods won't move by themselves," Biden said. "For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home, we need major retailers who ordered the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from the ships to factories and stores to step up as well."

Officials also said the federal government is working with state Departments of Motor Vehicles to help increase the issuance of commercial drivers licenses in an effort to boost the number of truck drivers in the country. They added that the White House hopes to see the trucking and rail freight industries expand hours as well.

A shortage of truck drivers has added to the supply chain constraints, making the delivery of goods to consumers even more costly and slow.

— CNN's Chris Isidore, Jason Hoffman and Matt Egan contributed to this report

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