Nearly three-quarters of the US economy’s goods – and nearly all products sold in grocery stores – are transported daily by the trucking industry, which has grappled with a historic shortage of 80,000 drivers for more than a year. The dearth of drivers has resulted in delayed deliveries and higher costs, which negatively impact all stakeholders along the value chain from producers to retailers to consumers.
In a bid to alleviate this pressure, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday approved a slate of measures designed to recruit more drivers and improve supply chain efficiency, including bipartisan legislation that would reduce ‘empty miles’ by potentially increasing how much weight trucks could safely carry, create additional parking spaces and streamline the commercial drivers’ license process.
Of the 16 supply chain-related bills marked up by the committee this week, the Consumer Brands Association and FMI – The Food Industry Association called out three for their potential to build long-term capacity and resilience in the food industry supply chain.
Pilot to increase weight limits could reduce ‘empty miles’
These included HR 3372, introduced by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), which would establish a voluntary 10-year pilot program through which states could increase the weight of 6-axel vehicles on federal interstates up to 91,000 pounds.
Increasing the amount of carbo trucks can carry could help lower greenhouse gas emissions and ease supply chain backlogs by reducing the number of trucks that currently leave facilities partially empty due to the current weight restrictions – a practice frequently referred to as “empty miles,” FMI explains in a letter it sent to committee members earlier this week urging their support for the legislation.
Additional parking would encourage more drivers, ensure efficient delivery
The committee also headed FMI’s call to pass the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, HR 2367, sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), to invest $755m over three years to increase the number of truck parking spaces in the US, which should encourage more drivers to take long hauls and make the profession more appealing to others.
“Too many drivers are forced to park on roadsides or in areas not designated for their rigs due to the lack of available parking spaces to rest and comply with hours-of-service requirements. This lack of safe, available parking is a deterrent to women and men entering or remaining in the trucking profession. HR 2367 is an important measure in keeping truckers safe and encouraging others to enter the profession,” FMI argues.
Rep. Bost agreed, explaining, “by expanding access to parking options for truckers, we are making our roads safer for all commuters and ensuring that goods and supplies are shipped to market in the most efficient way possible.”
LICENSE Act offers ‘more sensical avenue for obtaining testing and certification’
To further encourage potential drivers to take to the road, legislation sponsored by Reps. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and passed by the committee on Tuesday would modernize and streamline the commercial driver’s license process.
The Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-Takers Now Safety and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act, HR 3013, would “provide prospective trucking professionals with a more sensical avenue for obtaining testing and certification for the CDL process” and “attract more individuals to this worthy and rewarding trade,” FMI lobbied in its letter to the committee.
Together this trio of bills, if passed by the full House and aligned with companion legislation in the Senate, could “prevent disruptions within our incredibly complex, global supply chain system by tackling the many weaknesses exposed by the pandemic,” CBA vice president of supply chain Tom Madrecki said.
He explained this legislation “represents a step in the right direction in the ongoing fight to alleviate the supply chain challenges that threat to invoke devastating ripple effects on consumers if they go ignored.”
Both CBA and FMI encourage the swift passage of these bills by the full House of Representatives.