High demand for product, low supply of drivers and skyrocketing fuel costs are all taking a toll on the trucking industry.
According to AAA, diesel is averaging $5.08 a gallon nationally, down slightly from its all-time high of $5.13 that was made last month. Mike Kucharski, co-owner and vice president of JKC Trucking, says those costs need to be absorbed elsewhere.
“Everybody across the spectrum of the supply chain—not only us but any manufacturer, farmer, etc.—is going to have to pass on theses costs, and these costs get passed down to the end user,” he says. “Not only are the American people getting hit at the gas pump for these outrageous fuel costs, but the costs are going up even more at the grocery story. It’s just crazy with what’s happening out there.”
In 2021, there was a need for 80,500 truckers. Kucharski says the issue his business is facing is the shortage of workers at warehouses.
“It took two, three hours to unload a truck, and it’s now taking 14 to 18 hours,” says Kucharski. “With the limited amount of trucks we have, it holds the driver too long. There’s other freight on the truck that has to be unloaded. Other customers get upset. The goal is to deliver the product we have so we can reload and have the driver come back and start the whole cycle over again—keep the wheels rolling and the supply chain flowing.”
JKC Trucking’s focus is on refrigerated trucks. With unload times topping 18 hours, there’s a lot of risk with perishable items.
“Every minute we hold onto [something], it costs us money,” says Kucharski. “The refrigeration unit in front of the trailer runs on diesel, so if it’s frozen, it stays frozen. But we have perishables [like] cheeses and produce. Every time we’re being held, it’s not only costing the carrier more money, it’s costing us. The issue is the quality of the food—any issue with that just trickles down to the end user. Some of this product has a little less shelf life due to these issues.”
Ballooning fuel and wage rates will likely weigh on the trucking industry for some time. Kucharski says the industry would welcome the chance for lawmakers to hear what they need to keep commerce rolling.
“The government is disconnected,” he says. “I’ve been saying from the beginning [of COVID] that we welcome lawmakers to sit down with us so we can educate them and show them what we need on the front lines.”