What the Government Shutdown Means for Transportation Operations


As we enter day 32 of the government shutdown, it was reported in the WSJ that agencies that oversee the flow of goods are starting to cut back services and working hours at some sites, raising concerns that delays can spread. The New York Times says, “While some essential work, such as mail delivery and law enforcement, is still being performed, the shutdown has affected operations at nine departments, including Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, and several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA.”

Some TSA and Customs & Border Protection agents are beginning to call in sick as they are working without pay; this has caused hours-long lines in airports and slower paperwork processing. At borders, with less personnel reporting to work, delays at truck crossings can occur.

If you are carrying products that require cold storage, make sure your trucks are in tip-top working order to keep products cold during longer wait times. For products with expiration dates, shippers should try to incorporate delays into overall shipping times to keep items within acceptance dates.

Some other noteworthy challenges from the government shutdown include:

  •      •     FDA stopped its routine inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and other foods at high risk of contamination, but is still inspecting meats, eggs, grain, poultry, etc.
  •      •     Social security checks will still come, and the US Postal Service will still deliver them.
  •      •     Law enforcement personnel are working without pay and delays in Federal court proceedings have slowed, adding to the already large backlog of cases.
  •      •     National parks and museums, even the National Zoo, have been closed during the shutdown.

The US Department of Transportation has not been funded for 2019 because of the shutdown, which may delay rulemaking around new Hours of Service proposals. Most shippers will not see any disruption due to the shutdown except for border delays. However, the longer the shutdown, experts are saying, the better chance for a disruption which could translate into thousands of dollars in demurrage and detention penalties. If the shutdown drags on, back-ups at ports, borders and terminals could occur because of piles of delayed paperwork.

The longer the government shutdown continues, the greater potential for a disruption to occur somewhere along the supply chain. There is concern that less visibility into what is going on can lead to challenges that are hard to overcome. Without visibility, demand signals can be missed and there can be interruptions in transport modes. Other potential issues include a loss of suppliers of raw materials, extra high inventory levels (or extra low), hold-ups in customs and more – leading to a sudden rise of prices that can eat into bottom lines and create unhappy customers.

Companies can create strategic supply chain plans to help overcome any disruptions caused by the shutdown. Technology, planning ahead, and extra due diligence will help companies meet customer demands and keep operations moving forward.


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