Relief from trucking supply chain challenges driving up costs could be on horizon if SHIP IT Act passes

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/	InStock
Source: Getty/ InStock

Related tags Supply chain Inflation Supply chain management

Food industry leaders are calling for the fast passage of bipartisan legislation introduced yesterday that seeks to ease ongoing supply chain challenges stemming from the nation’s historic 80,000 truck driver shortage, which is delaying deliveries and driving up costs.

The Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act​, introduced yesterday by US Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D, and Jim Costa, D-Calif., seeks to overhaul the current interstate trucking system, which is responsible for moving nearly three-quarters of the US economy’s goods and which stakeholders say is hampered by a lack of drivers, an overly burdensome licensing process, and insufficient support for existing drivers.

With the median age of current truck drivers between 51 and 52 years old, the trucking industry’s situation could become worse before it gets better unless steps, like those outlined in the SHIP IT Act, are taken to recruit, train and retain drivers and best practices are updated to fit growing demand, argue Johnson and Costa in a statement.

“We introduced this bipartisan legislation to strengthen the workforce and make it easier to move products across the country,”​ Costa added.

Incentives, streamlined licensing will boost recruitment

A core component of the legislation are measures to lower barriers to becoming a truck driver.

These include grants through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to cover tuition and expenses associated with entry level driver training.

Other incentives to help attract and retain drivers include temporary tax credits of $7,500 for truckers with at least 1,900 hours of driving and adjusted gross income under $135,000 for the year if filing jointly, $112,500 for heads of households and $90,000 for individuals. New drivers are also eligible for a $10,000 tax credit.

The legislation also makes it easier for people to become truckers by streamlining the commercial drivers license process and making it easier for states and third parties to offer related tests.

“Anytime we can make the recruitment of qualified truck drivers easier and with greater retention, that is a positive step for the supply chain,”​ commented Matt Joy, president and CEO of the truck and trailer manufacturer Hendrickson.

More parking would keep more drivers moving

To better support existing and new drivers while they are on the road, the legislation seeks to expand parking, for which there currently is about one spot for every 11 semi-trucks on the road. A lack of parking spots may push some drivers to end their day earlier and cover less distance than they might otherwise, which contributes to congestion.

Also included are measures to improve and expand rest facilities, which could help address gender-related safety concerns ​that discourage women (who make up 7% of all drivers currently) and other minorities from seeking driving careers.

Emergency relief

Finally, the legislation would “modernize”​ the use of waivers during emergencies, such as for overweight vehicles and loads that could easily be dismantled or divided and in some instances if the president or secretary declared an emergency related to a major disaster.

This provision recalls the damaged caused during the pandemic when the trucking supply chain was not able to efficiently transport goods – such as milk – before it spoiled.

“Milk is a perishable commodity that needs to move quickly along the supply chain from the farm to the consumer. The damages wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain snarls that followed have shown how important it is to find safe, efficient means of transporting goods across the country,”​ said National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern, who commended the legislation, noting it “will improve transportation efficiency and sustainability within the US dairy industry.”

The Consumer Brands Association’s Vice President of Supply Chain Tom Madrecki echoed this sentiment, noting the legislation “will safely allow for less empty miles driven, a more robust and well-trained trucking workforce and a stronger national supply chain.”

He added: “The SHIP IT Act offers tangible solutions that stand to immediately address pressing supply chain challenges. We call on Congress to pass this bipartisan legislation and take meaningful steps to lower consumer costs, enhance efficiency and support safety.”

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