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How scarcity of trucks, trailers, drivers is hurting supply chain
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Steve Syfan tours the maintenance bay area Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at the Syfan Logistics headquarters on Old Candler Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

Increased demand in recent months means more trucks need to be on the road, but like many other products in the disrupted global supply chain, large trucks, trailers and drivers are all hard to come by for logistics firms trying to get products from point A to B. 

Steve Syfan, executive vice president of Gainesville-based Syfan Logistics, said used 2017 trailers cost more now than they did when they were new four years ago. 

“We get what we can get,” Syfan said. “We ordered trucks seven, eight months ago. It’s supposed to be (here in) December, but they can’t guarantee it.”

Syfan is one of the biggest dealers in the world for TICO trucks, Syfan said. They used to be able to get certain new trucks in a month after ordering them under normal circumstances, and at times they could get vehicles within a few days. 

Computer chip shortages have caused used car prices to increase and made new vehicles much harder to come by. Trucks are seeing similar problems, though Syfan said he couldn’t quite put his finger on what the issue was for trailers and trucks being in such short supply. 

“There’s usually a glut of trailers,” he said. “A trailer is fairly inexpensive to lease and now they’ve doubled and tripled (in price), because they can’t find them.”

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Trucks are maintained Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at Syfan Logistics. Nationally there's a trucker shortage and locally as well. - photo by Scott Rogers

Increased demand for consumer products has likely been a factor, he said, as well as labor shortages that gum up other parts of the supply chain. 

Gary Copeland, vice president of Gainesville-based Overdrive Logistics, said the delays he’s seen lately are “unprecedented.” 

Overdrive primarily works as a broker, or a middleman helping other companies put freight on other people’s trucks, he said, and many of the carriers they work with are using 10-15% less of their fleet than normal because of driver and truck shortages. 

“The carriers we use are having a hard time finding drivers,” Copeland said.

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Syfan Logistics employees stay busy tracking shipments Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, from their Old Candler Road headquarters. There's a trucker shortage nationally and here locally as well. - photo by Scott Rogers

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said that the slowdowns seen at ports around the country are in part caused by the shortage of truckers and trailers. 

“Trucker wages have definitely gone up,” Evans said. 

Many companies are overstocking inventory right now, because they aren’t sure when they’ll get more product, he said. This means they need more trucks on the road while not enough are available. 

“The real issue for the driver shortage is there are more drivers that are retiring and aging out than there are coming in to take those positions,” Evans said.

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A terminal tractor sits outside maintenance bays Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at Syfan Logistics. Nationally there's a trucker shortage and locally as well. - photo by Scott Rogers

Copeland said that the labor shortage the country is experiencing also adds to delays, because certain suppliers may not have enough workers to efficiently load and unload trucks. “It’s not really one thing, it’s just a combination of a lot of things,” Copeland said. 

Syfan Logistics has had to make significant changes this year to adapt to these supply chain issues. For the first time, Syfan is hauling live chickens and grain, Syfan said.

“They can’t find enough drivers to pick up the chickens at the houses,” he said. “We taught drivers how to get into the farms, how to get unstuck in the mud.”

With the holidays on the horizon, some may worry that they won’t be able to track down the gifts they want to buy for their children or other loved ones. But Syfan said people shouldn’t worry too much about the holiday season yet. 

“We refuse to participate in gloom and doom,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to, ‘kids aren’t going to have toys,’ … but it might be a blue one instead of a red one.”

A previous version of the article incorrectly spelled TICO trucks. 

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