Through our work to optimize supply chains, we have a unique view of how goods and commerce flow through our nation’s infrastructure and what impacts on time delivery and cost. In addition to weather and capacity disruptions, supply chains are also challenged by congestion on U.S. highways, rail hubs, and ports.
On behalf of supply chain professionals, I recently had the opportunity to share these insights with the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security as they consider priorities and funding mechanisms for new infrastructure investments.
Between continuously developing new technologies and processes, shippers and logistics management providers have done their part to increase the efficiency of supply chains. Now we need the public sector to make commitments and investments to support the reliability of a modern supply chain.
Here are five infrastructure-related supply chain challenges that the private sector cannot fix alone:
Congestion in the U.S. is a serious concern. Our global customers recognize that we are falling behind overseas competitors in this area. Other countries are investing in infrastructure in a manner that is commensurate with their economic growth goals. We recommended that the American Transportation Research Institute’s “Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks” report and the National Association of Manufacturers’ “Building to Win” proposal are good places to start for identifying and prioritizing opportunities for improvement.
- Truck Parking
The current availability of truck parking in the U.S. is insufficient. Earlier this month, several states restricted tractor-trailers from traveling on major highways as nor’easter storms pummeled the East coast. Drivers in these situations need safe, convenient places to park. We are encouraged by provisions included in MAP-21 and the FAST Act to address parking, which includes the construction of new truck parking as well as utilizing existing facilities like weigh stations.
- Freight Advisory Committees
We are also encouraged by more opportunities for shippers to directly connect with state infrastructure planners. The FAST Act includes a provision requiring the Department of Transportation to encourage each state to establish a freight advisory committee that includes a cross-section of public and private freight stakeholders. These committees play an important role in advising the state on freight-related priorities, issues, projects, and funding needs. This dialogue and collaboration is important as states consider transportation decisions that impact freight mobility.
- National Hiring Standard for Motor Carriers
Another area that could help improve supply chain efficiencies is to centralize and resolve confusion around the public data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Currently, there are no requirements for shippers or brokers to check carrier credentials issued by the FMCSA. This data is not consolidated into a single website, making it more difficult for shippers to check carrier qualifications. Also, the lack of a national hiring standard may be resulting in small carriers being excluded from opportunities, as shippers may be relying on unrelated data in selecting carriers.
- Freight Infrastructure Funding Mechanisms
From a diesel tax to tolls, a variety of freight funding mechanisms have been proposed to support new infrastructure investments. Supply chain professionals wholeheartedly prefer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) compared to other options. One proposal is to introduce a highway services tax that is based on the value of freight transportation costs. In addition to the administrative complications, we believe this option would harm small carriers and lead to a shift toward using private fleets as shippers try to minimize this tax cost.
Shippers and supply chain professionals are ready to see significant new investments in our infrastructure to support their competitiveness. It’s encouraging that the perspectives of the country’s supply chain leaders are being considered and heard by decision makers. We look forward to working with this group to identify solutions that will improve supply chain efficiencies.
Click here to learn more about the discussion around infrastructure investments and watch a webcast of the hearing.