Committee Members Introduce Legislation to Address Supply Chain Congestion

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Thune, R-S.D., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Todd Young, R-Ind. introduced the Facilitating Relief for Efficient Intermodal Gateways to Handle Transportation (FREIGHT) Act. This bill would take important steps to address the ongoing freight challenges while also putting in place policies to support the transportation network in the long term. Specifically, the FREIGHT Act would enhance appropriate government oversight of transportation operations, minimize barriers for stakeholders to address unlawful shipping conduct, streamline certification requirements for truck drivers, and incentivize the use of new technologies to improve efficiency.

“The pandemic led to a significant rise in demand for products and exacerbated existing bottlenecks,” said Wicker. “Now we are facing severe supply chain disruptions. The hindered movement of freight contributes to higher prices and shortages at stores – causing major headaches for American families not only for the upcoming holidays but for daily goods. Our bill would benefit the transportation network by supporting efforts to move freight without requiring burdensome government regulations.”

“The country is facing an unprecedented supply chain crisis, with Americans encountering empty store shelves, long wait times, and rising costs as the holiday season approaches,” said Thune. “Agricultural producers are also feeling the crunch, and this legislation which would take action to address these challenges, is urgently needed.”

“Since January, Tennesseans have been forced to navigate the uncertainties of a sluggish economy, and now, on the eve of the holiday season, supply chain disruptions have led to empty shelves and higher prices,” said Blackburn. “The FREIGHT ACT will improve transparency and accountability at all steps in the supply chain, help businesses and potential new employees cut through unnecessary red tape, and encourage innovation through the use of time-saving technologies.”

“I have heard from constituents and industry leaders across Kansas who are experiencing setbacks due to disruptions in the supply chain,” said Moran. “This legislation would help relieve the strain by improving the movement of freight and alleviating a number of the challenges that have significantly affected transportation of goods and commodities.”

“Ports across the United States are experiencing unprecedented congestion across our nation’s supply chain, which has resulted in delays and higher prices for goods on everyday

Americans,” Capito said. “Congress took a significant step in passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which not only reflects our commitment to our nation’s infrastructure, but will also make improvements and encourage efficiencies across the supply chain. These investments will take time to implement, which is why more action is needed to resolve the shipping crisis. I’m proud to join my colleagues in cosponsoring the FREIGHT Act that will help build on that work by minimizing barriers and harmonizing port operations in order to elevate the current shipping crisis.”

“We must work to reduce congestion throughout the entire supply chain by alleviating pressure points at our ports and in our freight transportation system that are harming Hoosier businesses,” said Young. “The FREIGHT Act will address a number of these root issues at the Federal Maritime Commission and the Department of Transportation.”

 

The FREIGHT Act would:

  • Improve the Movement of Freight
    • Establish a Department of Transportation (DOT) grant program for port-related stakeholders to develop planning documents to standardize the terms they use in their documents and operations, or how they communicate about moving freight with stakeholders.
  • Conduct Study on Documentation and Terms Used in Freight Transportation
    • Require the National Academies of Sciences to study the terms and documentation used across all modes in international freight transportation and provide recommendations on how to improve the communications among stakeholders.
  • Require Dwell Time Statistics
    • Require the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect and produce statistics on equipment dwell time, which would show how long intermodal equipment like chassis and containers are in use or under repair.
  • Authorize Federal Maritime Commission Activities
    • Authorize the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services, which provides mediation services to the public, and require the FMC to add seven positions across several of its oversight offices to strengthen its resources.
  • Establish Best Practices for Chassis Pools
    • Require the FMC to work with the Transportation Research Board to develop best practices for chassis pools for the benefit of local and private entities.
  • Enhance Anti-Retaliation Protections
    • Expand the list of entities against whom ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, and ocean transportation intermediaries cannot retaliate for raising complaints with the FMC; and
    • Authorize the FMC to order a refund to affected parties of up to twice the damages done to them for violations of detention and demurrage policy.
  • Authorize Refund Relief in Enforcement Proceedings
    • Authorize the FMC to order a refund for damages from an ocean carrier or marine terminal operator, in addition to the FMC’s current authority to access a civil penalty. This would help minimize barriers to private party efforts to receive compensation for unlawful conduct.
  • Require Public Information on Port Infrastructure Performance
    • Require DOT to collect and publicly release information on a variety of port statistics, such as total capacity, lifts per hour, and throughput.
  • Provide Temporary Emergency Authority
    • Authorize the FMC to mandate ocean carriers or marine terminal operators to share information relevant to the movement of goods if the FMC determines that an emergency exists and that the relevant information would support freight movement.
  • Provide Additional Transportation Representation
  • Expand the number of members of the Surface Transportation Board’s Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Committee.
  • Provide Permanent Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Waiver
    • Make permanent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s COVID-19 emergency waiver that exempts third party CDL skills testers from also being certified to perform knowledge tests. This would expedite the issuance of CDLs to get more drivers into the trucking workforce.

 

Click here to read the bill.

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/2021/11/committee-members-introduce-legislation-to-address-supply-chain-congestion