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August 27, 2021 12:45 PM, EDT

White House, DOT Tap John Porcari as Port Envoy to Address Supply Chain Issues

PorcariPorcari speaks at a past hearing. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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The White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Aug. 27 that John Porcari will serve as port envoy to the administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

The goal of the task force, which was established in June, is to provide a federal response to supply chain challenges as the country recovers economically from the coronavirus pandemic.

Porcari will work with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, DOT officials and representatives of the National Economic Council to address congestion at U.S. ports. He will also tackle issues such as backlogs, delivery delays and product shortages.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

Porcari has served as president of advisory services for the engineering consulting firm WSP USA, responsible for integrating the company’s technical expertise in planning and construction management. He also held positions as deputy secretary of DOT in the Obama administration and secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

“The pandemic has fundamentally disrupted our supply chains, which is impacting consumers, workers and businesses across the country,” Porcari said. “I am excited to hit the ground running and get to work immediately with industry, labor and other port stakeholders to address these challenges and to build a more resilient, future-facing supply chain that powers our economy into the future.”

The pandemic has led to disruptions in shipping and shifts in demand. According to DOT, the cost of shipping containers between China and the West Coast has grown approximately 90% compared with 2019 figures. DOT reports container cargo volumes rose 40% in the first half of 2021 compared with the same period last year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the nation’s largest ports, respectively, and major gateways for international freight.

Through the task force, DOT officials have engaged in outreach with various members of the transportation industry. On July 15, Buttigieg met with a group of officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, to discuss port-related congestion.

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Buttigieg, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on July 8 met with trucking industry representatives to discuss driver retention and supply chain issues. According to DOT, driver turnover rates are about 90% for large longhaul carriers and approximately 72% for small carriers.

“The Biden-Harris administration is using a whole-of-government approach to work with labor and industry leadership to identify, reduce and eliminate supply chain issues,” Buttigieg said.

DOT’s work to address supply chain issues at ports extends beyond the task force.

The Federal Railroad Administration on Aug. 26 announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity that makes $362 million available through its Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant Program. This program funds projects that reduce congestion, improve railroad infrastructure, relocate rail lines and facilitate multimodal connections between rail and facilities such as ports.

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