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April 12, 2021 12:15 PM, EDT

TMC Survey Shows Impact of Semiconductor Shortage on Fleets

Renesas chip factory Aerial view of the Renesas factory where the fire broke out. (Renesas Electronics Corp.)

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The ongoing shortage of semiconductors along with scant availability of other parts and supplies are causing delays for trucking fleets, a recent survey found.

According to a survey of fleet representatives conducted by the Technology & Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations, 73% of respondents have experienced delays in taking delivery of new vehicles due to the semiconductor shortage. For 63% of those of instances, the lag time amounted to 60 or more days. The shortage is affecting light, medium and heavy-duty vehicle classes, TMC found.

“The situation is a perfect storm, since at the very time the pandemic restricted the ability of chip manufacturers to produce semiconductors, the demand for product increased substantially because of the large numbers of people working remotely and relying on personal electronic devices for online connectivity,” TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell said in a statement.

Robert Braswell

Braswell

“It is a mess,” one respondent said in the survey. “We’re being told it will be late June or early July 2021 before the backlog can begin to clear.”

More than 43% of respondents said the shortage is impacting maintenance and repair, while 53% reported average downtime-related delays stretching to more than two weeks.

The report noted that the shortage has its roots in supply restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and other macroeconomic issues. The shortage was worsened by trade sanctions the United States imposed on Chinese companies in 2020. More recently, a fire that damaged a chip production facility owned by Japanese chipmaker Renesas in March of this year has pinched supply.

TMC noted that the problem has also caused production delays for consumer electronics and passenger car makers.

“Automotive manufacturers have suffered because those same chips are used to control the myriad of safety, communication and infotainment systems used on onboard vehicles these days,” Braswell said. “In fact, many auto manufacturers have announced production slowdowns and/or stoppages due to the chip shortage, according to various news sources.”

The TMC report found that the shortages are extending beyond microchips. One respondent said a shortage of foam for reefer bodies is impacting deliveries of new units and repairs to existing equipment. Exhaust gas recirculation coolers are also reportedly in short supply, TMC said.

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association is urging the White House to act.

“As the administration considers immediate measures to address the semiconductor supply chain constraints, we urge a prioritization of automotive grade semiconductors for medium- and heavy-duty truck components and aftermarket parts,” the group said in a statement. “Truck manufacturers are developing and deploying increasingly sophisticated automated driver assistance systems that show great promise in reducing heavy truck crashes, but those technologies also increase the demand for automotive grade semiconductors in heavy vehicles.”

The EMA statement added the global semiconductor supply chain must not only be made more resilient, but it must also be scaled to meet the growing needs of advancements in truck technologies.

TMC scheduled its 2021 Spring Meeting as a virtual event April 12-16 and April 19-23.

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