How to Address Material Shortages in the Trucking Industry

Dump truck at a quarry to illustrate the trucking industry

As you may have noticed, the trucking industry in Texas is undergoing material shortages. This presents a challenging environment and can lead to delays and increased costs for your infrastructure and construction projects.

In this article, we’ll look at the causes of the material shortages and then suggest way you can negotiate the terrain to ensure your projects complete on time.

Causes of Material Shortage in the Trucking Industry

1. Supply Chain Disruptions

COVID-19 disruptions across the world are still causing prolonged delays in business supply chains. This affects the timely supply of essential building materials such as:

  • Sand
  • Grave
  • Concrete
  • Asphalt
  • Crushed stone
  • Lime
  • Ballast
  • Recycled aggregates
  • Fill dirt

You could also include here materials such as steel, cabling, pipework, etc. But there’s another reason for material shortages that has arisen more recently, and that is…

2. Increased Demand from Federal Funding of Large Projects

The combination of Texas’s growing population and its aging infrastructure has led to many new transportation and construction projects. This has put additional strain on the availability of materials.

Federal initiatives like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the CHIPS Act have injected substantial funds into infrastructure projects, increasing the competition for materials. This has led to higher prices and material shortages because large-scale projects consume significant resources.

3. Labor Shortages

The industry also faces a significant shortage of skilled labor, which affects the ability to produce and deliver materials efficiently. For example, many materials workers left during the pandemic and have not returned.

In addition, trucking companies are stretched thin on personnel and time by all the new trucking required. This opens the industry to the possibility of freight fraud – especially theft, leading to further material shortages on site.

Let’s now turn to how you, as a general contractor, can take measures to shore up your own security against material shortages.

5 Strategies to Overcome Material Shortages

1 Diversify Your Supply Chains for Materials

Try sourcing your materials from a broader range of suppliers. This reduces your dependence on any single supplier or region, making your supply chain more resilient to disruptions.

You should identify both local and more distant suppliers who can provide critical materials. When you establish relationships with multiple suppliers, if one source faces delays or shortages, alternative sources can step in to meet the demand.

However, there’s another side to this. Regional suppliers are closer to the project site and can significantly cut down on transportation time and costs, reducing the impact of long-distance shipping delays of materials.

They may also be more flexible and responsive to urgent needs, further enhancing supply chain reliability.

Together, however, a robust network of diverse suppliers will help you better navigate the challenges of material shortages and ensure a more consistent supply.

2 Use Advanced Planning and Inventory Management

These are essential strategies to overcome materials shortages in the trucking industry.

Effective planning begins with securing long-term contracts with suppliers. These contracts help lock in prices and ensure a steady supply of critical materials over the course of a project. This is particularly important in a volatile market because you reduce the uncertainty of fluctuating availability and prices.

Maintaining an inventory buffer is another key aspect that helps you

  • identify critical materials prone to shortages and
  • keep a buffer stock to cushion against supply chain disruptions.

This involves setting up secure, weather-protected storage facilities either on-site or nearby. Utilizing digital inventory management systems can help track material quantities, usage rates, and reorder levels. This ensures the buffer stock is effectively managed and replenished as needed.

However, phased deliveries can also enhance inventory management. By scheduling deliveries in alignment with your project timeline, you can ensure materials arrive just when they’re needed. This minimizes on-site storage requirements and crucially reduces the risk of material wastage in a time of shortages. It’s a balancing act! Just-in-case vs. just-in-time.

Sharing planned project timelines and material forecasts with suppliers enables them to plan and allocate resources more efficiently, further enhancing the reliability of your supply chain.

Regular audits of inventory are crucial to maintaining accurate figures. They help identify discrepancies early, allowing you to address potential issues before they impact the project.

3 Leverage Technology to Help Avoid Material Shortages

Implementing supply chain management software significantly enhances the tracking and management of materials. The systems provide real-time data on inventory levels, shipment statuses, and delivery schedules. This allows you to make informed decisions and respond swiftly to any disruptions.

Real-time tracking systems are also invaluable to help you counteract material shortages. By using GPS and RFID technologies, you can monitor the location and status of materials throughout the supply chain. This visibility helps you anticipate delays in material delivery and adjust your plans proactively to avoid project slowdowns.

Additionally, integrating these technologies with existing project management tools ensures seamless communication and coordination among all stakeholders.

You could also utilize Building Information Modelling (BIM) to further optimize the use of materials. BIM allows for precise planning and visualization of projects, which reduces waste and ensures that materials are used efficiently.

Adopting technological solutions allows you to improve the resilience and efficiency of your supply chains, ultimately mitigating the impact of material shortages on your projects.

4 Enhance Communication and Collaboration

Enhancing communication and collaboration with your suppliers and stakeholders is crucial for managing materials shortages.

Aim to strengthen relationships with your suppliers to get better terms, quicker responses, and more reliable deliveries. Sharing your project timelines and material needs helps both suppliers and haulers to plan more effectively to meet your demands.

Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) is another strategy that can make a difference. By involving your materials trucking partner early in the planning phase, you can identify potential supply chain issues and collaboratively develop solutions.

5 Implement Sustainability Practices

Sustainability practices not only position you as a forward-thinking business promoting environmental responsibility. They can also help you navigate material shortages. So, experiment with ordering recycled or reclaimed materials – it’s a practical approach that also reduces reliance on new materials when they’re in short supply.

Cowboy Trucking Has Decades of Experience in Handling Materials

In a word, at Cowboy Trucking we get the job done. As a family firm we have seen nearly every problem the construction industry can throw at us – and our calm, professional, reliable way of working (passed down from founder “Cowboy” himself) means we can work with you to solve any problems you may face with material shortages. Give us a call and let’s talk!

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How to Address Material Shortages in the Trucking Industry
Read our five strategies to help the trucking industry to overcome material shortages and avoid supply chain disruptions.

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