Rep. Rick Larsen’s Agenda Includes Truck Parking, Workforce

Democrat Spoke During a Wide-Ranging Newsmakers Interview
Rep. Rick Larsen
Rep. Rick Larsen (U.S. House Office of Photography)

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The top Democrat on the transportation committee in the U.S. House says parking and workforce concerns remain leading issues across the trucking sector.

As the GOP-led Transportation and Infrastructure panel proceeds with its consideration of a robust agenda, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) intends to promote policies designed to improve freight operations nationwide. Dedicating attention to the trucking industry is central to that aim.

Pointing to legislation recently introduced in the chamber that would facilitate access to parking, Larsen expressed optimism about its chances to garner broad appeal on Capitol Hill.

“There’s bipartisan support for it still in the House. And it’s a very real issue. When you’re driving across the country, you see trucks parked on the side of the road. It’s because they need rest. But they need to be able to do that in a safe place,” Larsen told Transport Topics during a wide-ranging Newsmakers interview.

“So I think that, from at least my committee’s perspective, there’s bipartisan support for an investment in truck parking and longhaul truck parking,” he continued. For years, the trucking industry has sounded the alarm about a lack of parking for women and men operating trucks around the country.

Mike Bost and Angie Craig

 Reps. Mike Bost and Angie Craig introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. 

Responding to calls from stakeholders, members of Congress introduced last month the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. Sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.) in the House, the bill would authorize $755 million in competitive grants to expand access and assist with improvements to existing parking areas for commercial vehicles.

American Trucking Associations endorsed the measure. In 2022, the American Transportation Research Institute classified a lack of access to parking as third on its “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.”

Relatedly, the recruitment and retention of truck drivers continues to dominate operations industrywide. ATA has determined the workforce is short about 78,000 drivers. Specific to workforce concerns, Larsen proposed industry leaders innovate modern approaches for connecting job seekers with opportunities in the freight sector.

Changes in demographics necessitate updates to such recruitment. As he put it, “Every company should be looking at the new pool of people that are available to hire. Every union should be looking at this new pool of people to be able to recruit for good union jobs. Every person who represents workers or the workforce or employers needs to be thinking more broadly about how to attract this larger, more diverse, demographic in the United States into these good-paying jobs.”

“Whatever you were doing 20 years ago isn’t obviously working. What you were doing five years ago wasn’t working. So you need to all think about what the demographic — what the workforce looks like today. What the available pool of people looks like in terms of their demographics; in terms of backgrounds. And get out there, and show that there’s opportunities for everybody — for everybody in the transportation workforce,” he went on.

The transportation committee’s Republican leaders intend to conduct in-depth oversight of all-things infrastructure in the Biden administration. The focus of this oversight is the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA. Democrats acknowledge the panel’s oversight role.

And, for Larsen, promoting the benefits of what has been referred to as a once-in-a-generation transportation measure also is highly important. His strategy is to consistently promote a kind of Infrastructure Day. He explained: “From my end of things, I see myself as the mayor of the 2nd District; the mayor of my district. The deputy mayor of every small town in my district. And I need to be working every day alongside them to be sure these dollars are getting deployed in their district. And that’s what it means to have an Infrastructure Day be every day in the 2nd Congressional District.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the primary messenger of infrastructure policies for the administration, is a critical official in reminding communities of the IIJA’s potential benefits when it comes to safety, new technologies, equity and climate change.

“The implementation of the [bipartisan infrastructure law] is critical. We passed it. We’re all patting ourselves on the back for doing it. But now we need to show it’s going to work in communities across the country,” Larsen told Transport Topics. “The [U.S. Department of Transportation] has a good story to tell. And I look forward to the secretary pointing out those stories.”

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