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DOT Report Offers Ideas to Ease Supply Chain Disruptions

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A Department of Transportation assessment of U.S. supply chain disruptions calls for new policies and utilizing funding resources contained in the bipartisan infrastructure law for such solutions as expanding truck parking and improving warehouse capabilities.

The “Supply Chain Assessment of the Transportation Industrial Base: Freight and Logistics” report, made public Feb. 24, is a one-year follow-up response to some of the goals announced early last year in a presidential executive order aimed at ensuring a resilient supply chain.

DOT said the report lays out vulnerabilities in the U.S. freight and logistics supply chain and offers clear-cut actions needed to speed up the movement of goods from ships to shelves.

DOT Sectoral Supply Chain A… by Transport Topics

Clearly, the challenges to supply chain resilience are many, according to the report. America’s infrastructure has faced historic disinvestment, bottlenecks have slowed freight, real-time data and information are inadequate, supply chain insecurities are increasing cybersecurity threats and increased e-commerce demand has stressed local streets and driven demand for warehousing.

In the ports, the report said limited supply and shifting chassis ownership has added complexity to equipment provision. Increasingly, the freight and logistics workforce faces challenges, including an aging workforce, job quality concerns and worker retention issues, driven by factors including challenging working conditions and costs that reduce take-home pay. Nearly half of the transportation workforce is nearing retirement.

In addition, with rules varying by jurisdiction, regulatory challenges are numerous and modes are not always aligned, the report said.

“Decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure, unprecedented consumer demand amid our strong economic recovery, and continued pressure from the pandemic have all put immense strain on our supply chains,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement accompanying the assessment. “This report lays out critically important steps we can take — both right now, and in the years ahead — to help strengthen our supply chains, create good-paying jobs, and ensure that Americans can affordably and efficiently access the goods they rely on.”

“The assessment draws on lessons from the administration’s current efforts as well as extensive public and private stakeholder outreach,” according to the 141-page report. “It also highlights ways in which the administration is leveraging new resources made available through the historic bipartisan infrastructure law to make significant investments in ports and improve supply chain resilience.”

Some of the roughly 60 policy recommendations contained in the assessment included:

  • Support state DOTs and the private sector to develop and implement strategies that expand truck parking availability consistent with local land use considerations and address safety of rest areas
  • Investigate ways to expedite the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential approval process
  • Use funds provided under the infrastructure law to invest in projects that support supply chain resilience, promote domestic manufacturing, plan for future growth, and address intermodal and inland storage capacity needs
  • Invest in intelligent transportation systems infrastructure to enhance port and trucking operations
  • Explore the potential to increase U.S.-flagged ships, shipping companies and shipbuilding
  • Update DOT’s existing guidance on state freight plans
  • Leverage the experience of military veterans to fill civilian logistics jobs
  • Develop a national freight portal to share key data among stakeholders and an electronic information exchange standard for critical product flow tracking
  • Focus on increasing domestic manufacturing of new chassis, containers, zero-emission equipment and gantry cranes
  • Collaborate with partners on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee driver subcommittee when implementing any proposals that will impact the nation’s professional driver fleet

In addressing the parking shortage, American Trucking Associations lauded the report.

“The report acknowledges what ATA and truck drivers have been saying for years: The lack of safe truck parking negatively impacts our tangled supply chain, and more importantly, it makes an already difficult job far more challenging,” said Chris Spear, president of ATA.

Spear added, “The scarcity of truck parking spaces across the country decreases safety for all highway users, exacerbates the industry’s longstanding workforce challenges, contributes negatively to driver health and well-being, diminishes trucking productivity and results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.”

“We hope that DOT will use the historic increase in grant money in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to invest in projects that address this critical, growing and long-neglected obstacle to the safe and efficient delivery of the 72% of domestic freight that is moved by truck drivers.”

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