And the Port of LA just moved to 24 hours a day, right?
Biden pushed them to. And the problem is, every time somebody eliminates one bottleneck, another one becomes apparent. So they moved to 24/7 operations, but the CEO of Flexport [a shipping logistics company], Ryan Petersen, sent some people to investigate and found out that trucks aren’t showing up during the night shifts when the longshoremen are working. So that 24/7 thing didn’t actually help because you don’t have enough truck drivers coming in to pick up those containers.
Why is that happening? Well, because that market’s all fucked up, too, for a million reasons. Part of it is there’s just not enough warehouse capacity for all of these goods. The amount of available capacity in Inland Empire warehouses, which is where those goods go before they’re transferred on the long haul trucks, is down to like 3%. So the ports have so many containers that it’s gridlock. The warehouses where those goods are going have so much material that it’s gridlock. It’s like the LA freeway at rush hour.
And we haven’t even gotten to the step where the goods are being shipped to customers.
That’s the fulfillment level, which is Amazon warehouses and last-mile delivery, like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon’s dedicated truck drivers. They’re dealing with a labor crunch, plus just not enough trucks and capacity in warehouses. The old promise of “you will get your goods tomorrow” has actually just evaporated for a lot of deliveries.
So, basically, that whole system that we got so accustomed to—infinite variety, and get it all delivered tomorrow—is so beyond its built capacity and ability to expand that you’re seeing reduced inventory, reduced selection, or [goods being entirely] out of stock. Part of that is the quote-unquote “great resignation,” which really isn’t a great resignation. It’s just people being like, “Okay, I got my stimmies. I’m gonna wait. I’m going to be choosy about what job I take and maybe I don’t want to go back to working for Uncle Bezos, because that’s a pretty brutal environment.”
I was doing some back-of-the-envelope math trying to figure that out—if they need to sort a package every 14 seconds over the course of a 10-hour shift, that’s thousands of packages a day.
They get a half hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. So [it’s] nine hours of absolutely solid work at the maximum pace you can sustain, essentially.
When describing the ship that goes from China to LA, you use the word “efficient.” Do you mean that in terms of energy usage? Because to me, that sounds like an ecological nightmare.
If we could localize these supply chains and make them work, sure, that’d be better. Even though the highest cost of shipping from Texas to China is the cost of fuel, it is still overall a very low cost because these ships are so gigantic. It’s literally the size of the Empire State Building laid on its side. There are up to 10,000 40-foot containers. Each container can hold 50,000 pounds of goods. Once you put that much on a ship, the amount of fuel it costs to move any one of those objects is minuscule. It’s way more fuel to just drive it from the store to your house, honestly. Because you’re getting in a two-ton vehicle to, like, drive your shoes home from Foot Locker.