Freight Forward: Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges to Deliver for America
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR) from today’s hearing entitled, “Freight Forward: Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges to Deliver for America”:
The Subcommittee is continuing our efforts to address the supply chain crisis that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Administration’s extreme, Green New Deal agenda. Today, we are specifically focusing on the challenges faced by our Nation’s trucking industry.
The trucking industry plays a crucial role in the supply chain, ensuring that goods and supplies are transported from one location to another. A popular refrain that demonstrates the importance of the trucking industry is: “If you bought it, a trucker brought it,” because nearly everything purchased for your home got to the store on the back of a truck.
Simply put, our economy requires a properly functioning trucking industry. More than 70 percent of our Nation’s freight tonnage is moved by the trucking industry every year, and more than 80 percent of our communities get their goods exclusively by trucks. Over 8.7 million commercial motor vehicle drivers operate in the United States, traveling billions of miles every year, serving every community in our country.
At today’s hearing, we will hear more about these challenges and explore solutions to make it easier for commercial trucking companies and truck drivers to do their jobs, which, in turn, will help ensure we do not see more of the Soviet-style empty store shelves we witnessed during the pandemic. Every company and each driver must comply with a myriad of rules and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels, to make sure their loads are safely delivered on time.
We need to make it easier for women and men to choose this profession, which is one of the most common paths to a middle-income lifestyle that does not require a college degree. This means attracting more potential drivers earlier in their working career and making it easier to train and test for a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The Drive Safe Act, introduced during the prior Congress, is one idea. This bipartisan proposal would allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers to cross state lines, which makes sense to me since 49 states and the District of Columbia already allow 18-to-20-year-old commercial motor vehicle drivers to drive within their states’ borders.
A three-year pilot program testing this concept is in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), but the Administration appears to be trying to kill this pilot by including requirements not in the law. I encourage the Administration to change direction.
We also must improve the quality of life for truckers on the road, so that they will choose to stay in this profession. Increasing the amount of available truck parking will help improve the quality of life for truck drivers, while preserving safety and productivity.
While truck parking was not included in IIJA, the Committee last Congress considered and passed Congressman Mike Bost’s Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which would create dedicated funding for truck parking. I am a cosponsor of the bipartisan bill that he re-introduced earlier this year, and I look forward to hearing witness feedback on this legislation.
Currently, the industry is short 78,000 drivers. Over the next decade, it is estimated that roughly 1.2 million new truckers will be needed to replace an aging workforce and keep pace with demand.
It is important that we explore ways to make this professional career more attractive to employees and encourage more individuals to join the industry. At a time of sky-high fuel prices, and while many Americans were able to work remotely, our truckers delivered in person. And, unfortunately, when it costs more to move a product from point A to point B, consumers feel the impact.
Inflated fuel prices also significantly cut into an owner-operator’s take home pay. Despite these headwinds, the Administration continues to prioritize its progressive ideology. They tried to stop states from using their highway money to expand capacity – which, thankfully, we were successful in getting them to reverse — now they want to essentially outlaw diesel trucks.
Also troubling, the Biden Administration is continuing to put its thumb on the scale for one type of engine – electric – that the marketplace simply is not yet ready for. Electric trucks are not widely available for purchase, are more expensive, and also weigh more. Either truck weight limits will need to increase, or we will have to increase the number of trucks on the road. And, while this is not the purpose of today’s hearing, I remain concerned that electric vehicles do not contribute to our user-pays Highway Trust Fund system.
There are also concerns regarding where the critical minerals needed to make batteries come from. If a business wants to invest in alternative fuel vehicles, that’s one thing. But I believe that businesses should have the opportunity to make their own decisions, without the government forcing them into a corner via their hasty and unrealistic pursuit of electric trucks.I look forward to hearing your ideas about how best to help the trucking industry continue to deliver for all of us.