The perils of Chinese trucking
In today’s New York Times, "China’s Exports Perch on Uncertain Truck System", an article on the somewhat chaotic and unregulated world of Chinese trucking featured prominently. Of note in the article was the following:
- Mention of a recent trucker strike in Shanghai involving over 2000 truckers over the climbing cost of fuel and government fees.
- Many of the smaller trucking companies are owner-operated, and compete by offering low prices and over-loading the trucks, which leaves them vulnerable to fines from corrupt government officials. Corruption, in the form of fines levied by local government officials, is especially onerous to these businesses.
- From a security point of view, one point is especially troubling. Many of the small trucking companies subcontracted by larger (and no doubt global) logistics companies are often forced to cut costs and corners in order to keep their prices low. According to the article, many “ violate the law, pay bribes to avoid heavy fines and transportation restrictions, and even force drivers to sleep in the trucks overnight, sometimes in insecure parking lots.” This last point could indicate that C-TPAT certified global logistics providers subcontract to companies that are unable to meet minimum security standards for the flow of cargo.
- As production moves further into the interior, these issues are likely going to be increasingly problematic. Trucking is surprisingly expensive in China, despite low wages for the drivers, and many small firms are not able to compete, especially when fuel costs are steadily rising.
Should the Chinese and US governments agree to allow C-TPAT validations to take place in China again in the near future as has been announced recently, it will be interesting to see how this issue will be handled. Challenges to truckers in China appear to pose security risks to the supply chains of a large part of the goods that are shipped to the US, and as a result, should not be ignored by CBP or C-TPAT partners who source in China.