Who’s to blame when you can’t get a fast food taco or coffee? Here’s what’s going on

·3 min read

When you see a sign outside a restaurant that says not all menu items may be available because of shortages, Allen Hodges asks you not to blame the trucking industry.

That’s what some people might do when fast food giant Taco Bell says on its website: “Sorry if we can’t feed your current crave. Due to transportation delays, we may be out of some items at your local restaurant.”

Or when a competing chain, Del Taco, reports similar problems. A sign at its store at 1306 Broadway Ave. store in Boise on Sunday attributed shortages of some ingredients to “nationwide shipping delays.”

What Taco Bell left unsaid is that it operates its own trucking fleet. So if there are shipping delays, it’s due to the division of Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc., not the trucking industry itself, said Hodges, the CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association in Boise.

“They have their own private fleets, those chains do,” Hodges said by phone. “There’s always been a shortage of drivers before COVID-19 and after COVID, but it’s not to the point where stuff’s not getting delivered.”

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Starbucks has also reported shortages. An online menu Tuesday showed five flavored iced teas were not available at the company’s store at 17th and State streets. Ten others were. Six hot coffee drinks were likewise unavailable out of 34 listed.

Previously, Starbucks had a message on its app warning of possible shortages. That message was missing from the app on Tuesday.

The problem, Hodges said, is that factories across the country shut down last year because of the coronavirus, and they’ve had a hard time getting back to pre-COVID production levels.And some raw ingredients have been in short supply, adding to manufacturing problems.

“It’s a domino effect if they can’t get their products manufactured and loaded onto a truck on time,” Hodges said. “They’re blaming trucking, which during COVID stood up and delivered for the nation.”

CBS News, citing social media reports, said Taco Bell has faced shortages of beef, chicken hot sauce and 10-inch tortillas.

The Taco Bell at 3377 W. State St. in Boise on Tuesday had all of those items, although when ordering online, customers had to search to add packets of hot sauce. Typically, they’re easy to find.

A sign on the front door said that “ingredient shortages and delivery delays” were responsible for unavailable menu items.

Taco Bell did not reply to an Idaho Statesman email requesting comment.

Last April, Idaho Gov. Brad Little joined Hodges and other state trucking industry officials in handing out lunches to 2,000 truckers passing through an Interstate 84 weigh station east of Boise.

The governor thanked the truckers for their role in delivering products during the pandemic.

Former President Donald Trump called truckers “heroes” during remarks on the White House lawn in April 2020.

“The shortage of toilet paper and ammunition and stuff wasn’t because of trucking,” Hodges said. “It was the manufacturers that couldn’t keep up.”

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