|Newsprint rolls (Photo by David Kasnic, The Washington Post)|
shortage of truckers and blockade bottlenecks have put a crimp on newsprint
deliveries to the nation’s newspapers," Buck Ryan, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky, reports for The Rural Blog.
“The newsprint situation is severe,” Brett Wesner, chair of the National
Newspaper Association and publisher of 15 titles in Oklahoma, Texas and New
Mexico, told Ryan.
The crunch appears to come from a backlog caused by the blockade by Canadian truckers to protest pandemic restrictions.
“There are too few trucks and truck drivers in the market, so deliveries to newspaper printers are often delayed or unpredictable,” Tony Smithson, a regional director of printing operations
for Adams Publishing Group
, a major community newspaper company, said on his NNA blog in December.
This week, Smithson told Ryan, “One supplier recently told us that they had lined up only 76 trucks and drivers for the 872 loads they had planned to ship. That illustrates the scope of the challenge.”
Most U.S. newsprint comes from Canada, so the backlog was worsened by Canadian truckers' blockage to protest pandemic restrictions, said Kentucky Press Association Executive Director David Thompson, North America's longest-tenured newspaper-association executive: “The Canadian truck convoy was part of the problem for a while, but there is just a shortage of truckers right now.”
Southeastern Kentucky publisher Jay Nolan worried this week that he wouldn't have newsprint for the 14 papers, eight of them his own, that print at his London plant. “Just got word our paper truck is now scheduled to arrive March 14. That’s three days before disaster of having zero paper in stock,” he wrote Tuesday. “Worst supply situation I’ve seen in my 40 years in the industry.”
Nolan said small, rural papers are more threatened by the shortage because most of their printers are independently owned "or have newsprint agreements with only one or two mills," not the cooperative. "Some have limited storage capacity. As the paper market gets tighter, trucking delays make just-in-time delivery more problematic." He listed several contributing
factors for the shortage, including:
decline in demand for newsprint caused mills to close or convert their machines
to other types of paper. The pandemic further crushed demand as newspapers
- With fewer mills making newsprint, producers are running near capacity.
the pandemic rose, Covid-19 diminished the ability of providers to fully staff
remaining producing plants: “Classic supply/demand/production bottleneck.”
- Increased regulations have dramatically raised requirements and training for
someone to get a Class A commercial driver's license, causing a national
shortage of truck drivers. Gasoline price increases have hurt the trucking
industry even further.
in getting produced paper picked up for shipment has filled mill warehouses and
shipping docks to a saturation point.
is not optimistic the situation will improve soon. “Recently, I was told lack
of storage capacity is now hampering production,” he said. “Also, mills are running at
such high capacity level, maintenance is curtailed. Now, any breakdown of
machinery pushed too hard stops production.”
For Ryan's full story, click here.