Growing pressures on the U.S. supply chain are fast approaching crisis levels, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear told the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee.
Immediate action from Congress is needed to ensure that economic recovery is not derailed by further disruptions, Spear said in testimony before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, during a May 11 hearing titled Freight Mobility: Strengthening America’s Supply Chains and Competitiveness. Spear outlined the trucking industry’s key priorities on infrastructure, workforce, safety and the environment, detailing specific legislative steps that he said lawmakers must take to ensure the integrity and longevity of the nation’s supply lines as the economy climbs out of the COVID crisis.
“Investments in our supply chain are desperately needed, including the roads and bridges that connect our ports, rail yards and airports to the National Highway System. Do that, and you will witness measurable efficiencies, including gains in productivity and safety, job growth and sustainable employment, and historic reductions in carbon emissions,” Spear told members of the committee in his opening remarks.
“With your leadership, we remain hopeful that federal action can solve this growing national crisis,” he said. “Understand that if these investments are indeed made, you have the opportunity to go home before your constituents and point and say: that road, that bridge, that railroad, port, waterway, airport… I did that. I made that happen.”
The trucking industry moves more than 72% of the nation’s freight tonnage, and over the next decade, trucks will be tasked with moving 2.4 billion more tons of freight than they do today, Spear said. Breakdowns in surface transportation infrastructure, as well as a severe and widening truck driver and diesel technician shortage, threaten the industry’s ability to keep goods moving safely and on time, he said.
Freight bottlenecks and congestion on the National Highway System already cost the trucking industry an annual 1.2 billion hours of lost productivity, which is equivalent to more than 425,000 drivers sitting idle for an entire year — adding $75 billion to the cost of freight transportation, according to Spear and the ATA. In addition, the industry currently faces a shortfall of nearly 61,000 drivers and will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade to keep pace with increased freight demands, Spear said.
Spear called on the Senate panel to advance a bipartisan surface transportation infrastructure bill this year, focused on roads and bridges, that’s responsibly funded with a modernized user-fee system. He also called on lawmakers to pass the DRIVE-Safe Act, legislation to remedy the driver shortage by promoting opportunity and enhancing safety training for emerging members of the trucking workforce. The bipartisan bill is backed by more than 117 organizations representing all levels of the U.S. supply chain.
American Trucking Associations is a national trade association for the trucking industry, consisting of a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils.