In a letter to the Department of Energy, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) is asking for federal assistance to address the supply chain crisis hindering the industry.

A perfect storm of pandemic-induced material shortages, natural disasters like Hurricane Ida and a record-setting freight ship backup created a supply disruption crisis unlike any other the industry has experienced. The dire situation led the NRCA to send a letter, signed by CEO Reid Ribble, explaining the crisis and an “immediate need” of a comprehensive federal approach to address the shortages.

“Without federal assistance, the key material components needed to provide shelter to hundreds of thousands of Americans and businesses could be delayed for many months,” wrote Ribble. “Our industry is vital to addressing current housing shortages and to repair, build and maintain schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure buildings but these efforts are in jeopardy as materials are increasingly constrained.”

The crisis is causing roofing contractors to seek out creative solutions for their customers, such as offering alternative roofing systems or limited shingle color options. More often, however, it has caused job delays and strained relationships with manufacturers. With price increases and the ever-present workforce shortage already creating difficulties, some roofing contractors are wondering how they’ll stay afloat.

“We flat out can’t get materials, and we’re losing good people. That’s the scary part,” said Brad Beldon of Beldon Roofing Company. “We’ve looked at changing (roofing) systems, and brainstorming as best we could before we really got wind of the (supply) problem. You can play games with every system out there, but at the end of the day, if they’re not tested they’re probably not going to get installed. It’s created a big logjam.”

In the letter, the NRCA calls on the Department of Energy to assist with increasing the speed and capacity of the country’s ports, quickly restarting production when disaster strikes and “other assistance that may be identified in the coming days or weeks.”

“Providing urgently needed repairs to many homes, schools, hospitals, and other vital buildings in many parts of the nation depend on swift action of both the private and public sectors working together to address this emergency,” the letter states.

The NRCA held a telephone town hall in late September where leading industry manufacturers gave updates on the crisis. The key takeaway was that manufacturing took a sustained hit at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that could not correct itself due to the series of natural disasters and other events affecting materials.

“Demand throughout our industry seems very high, and I think the industry is actually working at a reasonable pace relative to last year or even 2019,” said Nick Shears, president of Carlisle Construction Materials. “But the real issue is that demand is high and we started this COVID-19 recovery with virtually no inventory from the main chemical suppliers. It’s a situation of playing catch-up.”