A bill introduced in Congress in January offers a comprehensive approach to resolving the trucking-related pain points in the U.S. supply chain.
Sponsored by Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA), the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act aims to resolve many of the issues that have bottlenecked the supply chain.
“Disruptions in our trucking supply chain continue to drive up costs and create uncertainty for American consumers and producers,” said Costa. “We need to recruit, train, and retain truck drivers to keep our supply chain moving, while also updating best practices to improve trucking to fit our modern economy. That is why we introduced this bipartisan legislation to strengthen the workforce and make it easier to move products across the country.”
The bill is designed to increase safety and shipping capacity for truckers; provide recruitment and retention incentives for drivers; and include flexibility during times of emergencies or black swan events.
The SHIP IT Act includes several measures that would increase the number of truck drivers, including:
- A tax credit of $7,500 per year for experienced drivers and $10,000 for new drivers. These credits would last two years.
- Increased accessibility to commercial driver’s license (CDL) tests
- Clarification that truck driver training is covered by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grants
“Americans experienced a slew of freight disruptions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Johnson. “Last year, we addressed ocean shipping reform, and it’s clear that updates are needed for other parts of the supply chain. The SHIP IT Act will bridge gaps, keep costs down for consumers and make it easier for shippers to move products across the U.S.”
NGFA, agriculture groups support SHIP IT Act
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and 83 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group have urged lawmakers to improve truck transportation by supporting the SHIP IT Act.
In a March 8 letter sent to leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the groups said trucks are the linchpin of the transportation sector with most forms of freight trucked at least once during the supply chain process.
They said SHIP IT would provide meaningful solutions to address the need for more truck drivers, truck parking, productivity, environmental efficiency, options during emergencies, and flexibility for agricultural haulers.
“The pandemic highlighted the importance of trucking to our nation’s well-being and we believe economic and environmental benefits can be unlocked through legislative reform,” the letter noted. “SHIP IT aims to bolster our nation’s driver workforce with two years of tax incentives for qualified drivers, grants to help cover driver schooling costs, and additional options for obtaining commercial drivers’ licenses. The bill also provides authorization for additional parking facilities to help improve drivers’ quality of life.”
SHIP IT also allows states to opt into pilot programs to permit trucks with at least six axles to weigh up to 91,000 pounds on Interstate Highways. The additional axle and associated set of brakes increase stopping capability, the groups noted, and trucks would be required to comply with the Federal bridge formula and axle weight limits to protect bridges and roads.
For agricultural haulers, SHIP IT also provides a 150-air-mile exemption from hours-of-service regulations on the backend of hauls to provide flexibility for agriculture and its seasonal changes in freight demand.
“We believe by supporting SHIP IT, Congress can achieve positive benefits for the environment while improving the economic competitiveness of the U.S.,” the groups stated. “We look forward to working with you in support of improving U.S. transportation and bolstering America’s infrastructure.”
- America is experiencing an 80,000-truck driver shortage, which has a negative ripple effect for every part of the supply chain.
- The median age of the truck driver in the industry is between 51 and 52 years old.
- There is one parking space available for every 11 semitrucks on the road, yet there is a need for even more trucks to deliver freight.