Supply chain

Supply chain issues affecting garbage trucks and street marshals

As nationwide supply chain issues affecting computer chips and sensors entering cars and trucks drag on, it has started to affect an unexpected group: the city’s street commissioners.

Garbage trucks, snow plows and salt trucks use computer chips and specialized sensors to operate – and local commissioners say problems with either can put vehicles out of service.

On the front lines, shortages of chips prevent the manufacture of new trucks. And at the back, sensor shortages prevent existing trucks from being repaired.

Ben Anderson is the Street Commissioner for the City of West Lafayette. He said issues with the sensors had taken some of his trucks off the road.

“At one point we had four main trucks that we used every day that were parked because I couldn’t get them anything,” he said. “It became a full time job, just trying to find stuff. You try not to panic.

This is particularly concerning, Anderson said, as orders for new trucks have stalled.

“In April, we were looking at 16, 17, 18 month deadlines,” he said. “Today I can’t even order a truck. I can’t even order one. I cannot order a chassis from one of the dealers we work with.

Anderson has said his fleet may limp for now – but he is concerned about the impact chip shortages and broader supply chain issues will have in the future.

“People can relate to the toilet paper business. ‘Oh my God I’m going to run out of toilet paper so I’m going to go buy the store, “he said.” People do that. I can’t get these parts, I can’t have my fleet in. breakdown, then I will amass.

The problem is not just isolated in West Lafayette.

Jeff Theising is the president of the Indiana Street Commissioners Association. He said during a meeting with members this week, it became clear that other street commissioners were having similar issues.

“It’s pretty common,” he says. “It’s prevalent statewide, so sounds.”

Theising said for now street marshals can get around their fleet issues. But it depends on the duration of the supply shortage.

“If it improves by mid-2022, I think everything will be fine. But no one knows. If it lasts longer than that, we’re all going to have problems, ”he said.

The Biden administration has predicted that a chip shortage is likely to persist until at least the end of 2022.

Some experts, however, say industry shortages will eventually resolve themselves.

Ananth Iyer is Professor of Supply Chain and Operations Management at Purdue University.

“I have full confidence that this will all work out,” he said. “It’s hard to predict how fast. But I’m pretty confident with all the brainpower invested in this issue, it will be resolved ASAP.

Iyer said the chip supply issue stems from auto suppliers who cut orders from chipmakers during the pandemic. Chipmakers have turned to creating chips specifically for consumer electronics – like phones and refrigerators.

“By the time the automakers realized people were coming back, they waited too long, which meant they were facing a shortage in terms of supply,” he said.

Iyer notes that another issue pointing to the shortage is that automobiles run on an older generation of chips compared to most consumer electronics. And for chipmakers who switched to creating the next generation of chips during the pandemic, it’s easier to keep doing it.

“If you say all of my capacity is dedicated to this rapidly growing market of smartphones and stuff, now here is someone who needs me to go back a generation or two, it’s taking too long – I’m going to focus on novelty, ”he said. “This is exactly the case that automakers want to be in step with the current generation of chips, so this problem they are facing would be much less of a problem.”

But, Iyer predicts, the shortage is probably just an incident.

Ben Anderson in West Lafayette agrees – more or less.

“It’s probably a blip,” he said. “He’s a huge fucking blip right now.”


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