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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Nationwide Supply Issues Hit Close to Home

For a while, we’ve been watching news of cargo ships stacking up at U.S. ports from afar but now beginning to see the net effect of this locally. In talking with area businesses we’re hearing of shortages of all kinds and the list seems to be growing. Local appliance shops are having trouble getting replacement handles, knobs and basic timers leaving thousands of dollars of saleable merchandise waiting on a $10 part. Equally as bad, our local HVAC folks are now being told that heating and cooling systems that normally are in stock in nearby warehouses now are looking at a 4-6 month or longer delivery time. 

The shortages seem to come at all levels including common car parts such as alternators and batteries, along with some items that are rarely in short supply such as paper and ink. Paint is getting hard to find. Crafters are having trouble getting certain types and colors of fabric and thread. 

Tires are no exception. We spoke to Dale Newkirk, owner of Right Choice Truck & Tire who is also feeling some supply chain pain. “Like everyone else in our business, we’re having trouble getting certain brands and sizes of tires” he said in a conversation on Tuesday “And a really hard time getting parts for semi trucks too”. Newkirk went on to say that getting what he needs comes from wherever they can find it such as Texas or Wisconsin, which are not the regular suppliers. “A normal day of business would be to make orders and expect them in a few days, however now, an increasing amount of time is spent searching for what is in stock around the country,” he added.  

Our nation’s leaders say the shortages are because the economy is reopening and demand is up- but there seems to be a lot more at hand here, including docks running at 50% or less capacity. With Winter approaching, we have to wonder when will things start to swing back the other way? No one is certain. Newkirk offered “Not to cause panic buying, but if anyone needs tires or a repair, you might do it sooner than later before supplies get even more limited”. As our conversation continued those sentiments apply to other things as well. He reinforced “While facing unknowns, it’s better to get whatever you need now as opposed to not being able to get it when you absolutely need it down the road” and that advice seems to make sense. 

Dale and wife Trish also own Troublefree Transportation, a trucking company that predominantly serves the midwest that dispatches out of Butler. “Unlike the cargo ships that are stuck, the trucking business is pretty much wide open” said Trish, who is president of the company “We could run as many trucks as we want but the limitation now is not having enough drivers”. She went on to explain that due to changes in regulations, COVID, and varying pay incentives complicate matters greatly. Even with those issues, the trucking industry appears to be in a little better shape compared to oceanic shipping vessels. In rough numbers it is speculated that it will take at least 6 months to unload the ships off the California coast IF the ports were running at full capacity. 

As we face the great unknown, we are already seeing a spike in heating fuels, gasoline, diesel and food along with sure signs of what appears to be hyperinflation; which means problems may very well continue into a good portion of next year.