President Joe Biden met Tuesday at the White House with CEOs of leading companies to discuss progress on combating congestion that is choking American supply chains and delaying delivery of products heading into the peak sales season for the holidays.
Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon, UPS (NYSE: UPS) CEO Carol Tomé, FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith, and Target (NYSE: TGT) Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell discussed steps that the administration and private sector can take to further strengthen supply chains to unclog the freight transportation system and lower shipping prices, a White House official said on background to members of the press.
Record numbers of import containers are arriving at U.S. ports faster than the terminal yards, railroads, trucking companies and warehouses can process them. As shipments pile up, it becomes more difficult for freight workers to maneuver equipment and find space for incoming containers. America’s largest container gateway in Southern California is handling 17% more import containers than during its previous record year.
Parcel carriers are also maxed out, with Smith saying over the weekend that his company expects to move 100 million more packages this holiday season than in 2019. Retail inventories through the end of September were 4% above last year’s level, and retail store shelves have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to Census data and the IRI Supply Index
The White House has brokered talks between private sector stakeholders and pulled other levers to try to improve the situation. Recent efforts include partnering with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to encourage greater use of 24/7 operations, endorsing surcharges for excessive dwell times for containers at those ports, and establishing a supply chain dashboard on the White House website.
Last month, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and UPS committed to boost container processing during overnight hours.
Earlier on Tuesday, the White House issued a Port Action Plan designed to quickly implement the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation passed by Congress so money can flow to projects aimed at improving efficiency in and around ports.
The CEOs updated Biden on their efforts to speed up goods movement and how stores are being stocked with high-demand products, according to the official.
The infrastructure bill and the plan to quickly fund ports “are going to create good-paying jobs, fix our supply chains for generations to come and lower prices for working families,” the official said.