House Committee Tackles Workforce, Federal Permitting Issues

Proposals Seek Supply Chain Efficiency
Trucks at Port of LA
Trucks line up at the Port of Los Angeles. (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg News)

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Proposals to ensure efficiency along the nation’s supply chains will be considered by a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives as congressional budget negotiations continue.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is set to debate legislation specific to the freight workforce as well as the federal permitting process. A hearing on these supply chain-centric bills is scheduled for May 23.

“Since the new Congress was sworn in, we have held several hearings to learn directly from stakeholders where our supply chain falls short,” Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), a co-sponsor of the legislation coming before the committee, said May 17.

“These bills address important elements of these concerns and offer solutions that will improve how goods move throughout the nation for years to come,” Crawford continued. He is the chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. ”I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to develop a robust package that will strengthen and expand our supply chain by removing barriers, improving efficiency and directing investment.”

His bills include the DRIVE SAFE Integrity Act, which aims to further advance efforts for commercial drivers ages 18 to 20 years old to operate trucks across state lines. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved a pilot program specific to this trucking demographic. Another bill, the One Federal Decision for All Act, seeks to consolidate certain aspects of the environmental review process throughout federal agencies.

The measures have garnered bipartisan backing in the chamber. “The DRIVE SAFE Integrity Act will streamline new careers for young, professional truckers and enable more trade and commerce to flow across South Texas and our country,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a co-sponsor.

Leading freight stakeholders praised the lawmakers’ attention to long-standing supply chain concerns. Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations, explained: “The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act will bolster new career pathways into interstate trucking while promoting safety and training standards that far exceed the bar set by states today. Reps. Crawford and Cuellar’s legislation offers a timely and essential trucking workforce and supply chain solution, built off years of broad bipartisan congressional support.”

“By directing [U.S. Department of Transportation] to steer the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program back to the course Congress originally intended, and providing a path forward to a new trucking workforce to safely enter the industry, this bill will ensure that trucking has the talent it needs to meet the economy’s growing freight demands in the years to come,” Spear added. ATA recently determined the industry’s workforce is short approximately 78,000 drivers.

“The last three years have proven just how important truck drivers are to the American economy and way of life, and how urgently we need to develop a pipeline of qualified, well-trained professional drivers to meet our nation’s growing freight needs,” noted Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association.

Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.)

Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.) 

Also on the committee’s radar is a legislative effort designed to increase funding for truck parking programs around the country. Earlier this year, transportation policymakers unveiled the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), would authorize $755 million in competitive grants for additional parking.

“I understand how difficult, and oftentimes dangerous, it can be when America’s truckers are forced to push that extra mile in search of a safe place to park. 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,” Bost said in March during the bill’s introduction. He went on, “This is a matter of public safety, and I’m committed to do all I can to drive this legislation over the finish line.”

Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) are sponsoring the companion bill.

The American Transportation Research Institute ranked inadequate access to parking third on its “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” in 2022.

Meanwhile, high-level talks continue between the White House and congressional leaders on debt ceiling negotiations. Lawmakers central to those negotiations have signaled the potential for arriving at a deal prior to June 1. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen indicated the federal government’s borrowing limit is estimated to be reached by that deadline.

“Bipartisanship was the key to averting default under President [Donald] Trump, it has been the key to averting default under President [Joe] Biden, and it will be the key to averting default before June 1,” Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said May 17. “I am hopeful we can reach an agreement as soon as possible. Defaulting on the debt would be the worst outcome for this country, as I have outlined repeatedly in speeches in this body.”

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