Business

Brutal Winter, Labor Shortages Make For Mess At New Jersey Ports

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The bitter winter has caused major traffic jams around the ports of New Jersey — with truckers stuck in line for hours to pick up cargo, and the consequences being seen at major retailers.

As CBS News’ Alexis Christoforous reported, trucks have been lined up for hours outside the port in Newark. Manny Singh waited all day to pick up cargo – a process that normally would have taken no more than an hour.

“I was waiting there from the morning, and I just got one box now,” Singh said.

Traffic has been slow for months, building to a crisis point in the past few days.

“It’s really, really bad right now,” Singh said.

Freezing weather has slowed operations and caused equipment to malfunction, and labor shortages have made matters worse. The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has approved hiring hundreds of new dockworkers, but a dispute with the International Longshoremen’s Association has stalled that.

To give an idea of the stakes here, the Port of Newark is the largest on the East Coast. It moves more than 3 million containers each year, adding up to $100 billion in goods.

And as the cargo builds up, retailers such as Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s have all confirmed that deliveries are behind schedule, and the truckers that are trying to make the deliveries are running on fumes.

“We’re spending a ton of money on fuel,” said Best Transportation president Tom Heimgartner. “We’re paying our drivers to sit idle at the piers for hours upon hours.”

Heimgartner’s company has been in business for 30 years, but with income now down by a third, he is worried that trouble at the port could even put him out of business.

The Port Authority said there has been some discussion of diverting cargo to different ports if the backups cannot be resolved.

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