White House Has Plans to Help Supply Chain Crunch as Walmart, FedEx, UPS and More Join Effort

The Biden administration says major carriers will begin around-the-clock operations to move more goods faster as the country heads into the holiday shopping season

empty shelves
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

A massive portion of the goods sold in the U.S. are shipped and delivered by Walmart, FedEx and UPS. To address shortages, delays and other supply chain issues, these carriers will start to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the White House announced Wednesday.

During a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials spoke about the ongoing — if intermittent — recovery happening since the economy took a huge hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There have been a lot of fits and starts, particularly around our supply chains," one of the officials said. "We've seen a number of disruptions that we are facing today."

President Joe Biden is expected to meet with executives from those three carriers and other stakeholders to address bottlenecks that have left some store shelves bare and long waiting times for online orders as the country heads into the winter holidays and the year's busiest shopping season.

"The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector, so we need the private sector to step up to help solve these problems," an official maintained to reporters on Wednesday. "Their efforts and the efforts of others — Target, Samsung, and Home Depot, among others — will help us to start addressing the backlog."

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The White House said nighttime operating hours by six major companies that ship in the U.S. will mean 3,500 additional containers per week will move at night through the end of the year.

"Those boxes contain toys, appliances, bicycles, and furniture that Americans purchased online or at their local small business, and pieces and parts that are sent to U.S. factories for our workers to assemble into products," the White House said in a statement. "And this is just a start — these commitments provide a clear market signal to the other businesses along the transportation supply chain — rails, trucks, and warehouses — that there is demand to move additional cargo at off-peak hours."

Since the pandemic spread to and within the U.S., American consumers "shifted their expenditures from services to more durable goods, as they repaired homes and purchased a lot of entertainment and leisure activities as well," an official said.

"And as a result, what we've seen is an enormous demand for goods through our supply chain transportation system," the official continued. "A lot of this was due to pushing purchases more online, which has bigger implications, of course, for importing and for warehousing and other factors along our supply chain, and this has put a lot of strain across the system."

Global Supply Chain Nightmare
Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach will also operate around the clock to ameliorate backlogs, the officials said Wednesday, adding that the administration is encouraging other businesses across the supply chain to follow suit.

"For the near-term changes that need to happen in private companies, we'll be the honest brokers and partners, and we'll provide carrots and sticks where we can," one official said.

The administration is also focusing on trucking and freight systems as well, hoping they'll also expand hours, the officials said.

With ports unloading more goods coming in from around the world, carriers shipping large quantities of these items to be assembled in factories, stored in warehouses, stocked on retailers' shelves and delivered to homes, the hope is that goods will be crisscrossing the country faster than they have been since the pandemic slowdown.

container ships
Port of Los Angeles. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty

It's a complicated fix that will require cooperation from individual states, with their various regulations and licensing requirements, and from employers of all kinds, who hire and pay workers to handle every crucial link in the chain.

The White House officials told reporters the administration will work with states to facilitate and expedite their processes and with labor unions, who have indicated a willingness to "step up."

"That will create more employment opportunities in the future," an official said of the commitments made by businesses. "And where you have good-paying jobs that you can support family on, I think you'll find that the employees will follow that and it will catch up."

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