Freight Market Update for Portland, Oregon

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Market Update – Portland, Oregon

The past couple of years have created unprecedented conditions in freight markets across the country. To better understand how these conditions and the challenges that come with them are affecting local markets, we spoke to Tony Charon, PDX Customs Brokerage Manager, and Tommy Dalatowski, PDX Transcon Manager, in Portland to learn about how shippers and carriers are adjusting their shipping strategies in the Pacific Northwest to deal with these new issues.

Though Portland is traditionally a smaller shipping market, the local freight industry, like many others, has been feeling the effects of the Covid pandemic. Local pickup and delivery carriers are experiencing problems at nearly every link in the chain. Delays at customer facilities, CFSs (container freight stations), airports, and freight terminals are unavoidable in the current market and create a domino effect of setbacks that impacts a large number of shipments.

The difficulties facing the freight industry are two-pronged. Covid has led to a tremendous demand for additional freight to be shipped. At the same time, carriers and shippers are experiencing shortages in equipment, drivers, and warehouse labor availability, essentially creating a situation where the market must do a lot more with a lot less. In addition, a market like Portland that is located in a state with stringent Covid protocols is further hindered by a reduction in warehouse and shipping terminal staff due to social distancing mandates.

These problems have been exacerbated further by an influx of overflow from larger markets. National gateway terminals and hubs such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Seattle are experiencing such severe bottlenecks and capacity restrictions due to the overwhelming amount of freight that some cargo is being rerouted to smaller markets like Portland to pick up the slack, further straining carriers there.

Because of the ubiquity of these problems across the entire worldwide shipping industry, avoiding delays and capacity issues is impossible. Rather than ignoring these problems that will take some time to resolve, the best practice for local shippers is to adapt. Communication between shippers and carriers is critical in order to address the issues facing the industry and work together to find acceptable solutions. Delays are inevitable, so plan ahead. Manage expectations and adjust supply chains, when possible, to accommodate longer transit times. Take advantage of visibility technology and tracking to stay informed about where freight is and what may be delaying it so that information can be shared between carriers, shippers, and customers. If a shipment is time-sensitive or time-definite, give extra time (1-2 days) to account for inevitable delays.

Relief will arrive eventually, and local and national markets will right themselves, but it will take time. In the interim, adapting and adjusting to delays is the most effective way for shippers and carriers to continue to ship freight effectively.

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