Today, trucking industry representatives and other highway infrastructure stakeholders testified at a hearing on the trucking industry’s role in overcoming supply chain challenges.
Today’s hearing was led by Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR), whose opening remarks can be found here. Following up on the first hearing of the 118th Congress, the Committee is continuing to focus on ongoing supply chain challenges throughout the transportation sector, with the goal of identifying potential legislative solutions.
In addition to the February 1, 2023, full Committee hearing, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee held a hearing on maritime transportation supply chain issues on March 28, 2023. Tomorrow, the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee is also holding a hearing focused on the freight rail industry’s role in overcoming supply chain challenges.
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh discussed how shortages of truck parking locations and burdensome EPA regulations have only exacerbated our nation’s supply chain problems. Pugh testimony highlights:
- “Finding a safe place to park is something most people take for granted, but it’s a daily struggle for hundreds of thousands of long-haul truckers.”
- “In addition to creating supply chain inefficiencies, the truck parking shortage is negatively affecting highway safety for our members and those with whom they share the road. Truckers find it increasingly difficult to rest when they are tired or need to comply with rigid federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.”
- “In recent months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unleashed a regulatory blitz on small business truckers. The agency finalized a Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emissions rulemaking in December 2022 that implements stringent emissions standards for new commercial trucks beginning in Model Year 2027. OOIDA and other industry stakeholders warned EPA that this hurried timeline would not ensure vehicle affordability or reliability, which are critical to supporting the purchase and operation of cleaner vehicles among small trucking businesses.”
- “In March, EPA granted a waiver for California mandating that 40 percent of tractor-trailers and other big rigs sold in the state be all-electric. In April, the agency released its Phase 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) proposal. Small business truckers have been shocked by this regulatory blitz. With these moves, our members are again facing higher projected costs for new vehicles and insufficient lead-up time to properly implement manufacturing standards.”
Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) President and CEO Anne Reinke addressed the need to update the motor carrier safety rating system to reduce uncertainty and delays within the supply chain. She also highlighted California’s AB 5 law preventing many truckers from being classified as independent contractors. Reinke testimony highlights:
- “TIA has pushed for many years for a more robust and effective motor carrier safety rating process, as a means to improve the safety of the nation’s highways. Currently, the FMCSA is using an outdated and ineffective physical audit system to rate motor carriers for safety.”
- “This system creates confusion and uncertainty in the carrier selection and vetting process that leads directly to pinched capacity and time constraints on our member's operations. The lack of clarity on the safety rating status of a carrier leads to delays in the carrier vetting process, where an updated safety rating process would shorten the time to vet carriers. This lack of clarity is preventing thousands of small motor carriers from being utilized because of the confusion that exists by virtue of 92% of motor carriers having no safety rating, which ultimately decreases the capacity available to our members.”
- “The majority of drayage carriers operating at the ports are independent contractors. This California law [AB 5] attacks the independent contractor model and is upsetting a highly fluid and competitive marketplace with zero to minimal benefits. This law flies in the face of 10+ years of an explosion in the number of for-hire trucking companies, while the State of California is trying to hold back and organize labor.”
David Fialkov, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, NATSO, Representing America’s Travel Plazas and Truck Stops and SIGMA: America’s Leading Fuel Marketers, also pointed to the truck parking shortage as a cause of supply chain disruptions and highlighted the need to attract more men and women to truck driving careers. Fialkov noted concerns that the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program is not being implemented as Congress intended as a method for growing and sustaining the trucker workforce. Fialkov testimony highlights:
- “Improving the supply chain is not simply a question of preventing a line of ships waiting for berths at some of the nation’s major ports. It is also a matter of making incremental progress in our surface transportation system to help ensure reliability and efficiency. Congress can enhance safety and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.”
- “When professional drivers spend less time looking for parking, they have more time to move products to their destination. It also lowers the cost of shipping those products, which in turn lowers the costs for consumers.”
- “NATSO and SIGMA supported the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, which was a carefully crafted bipartisan compromise included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The pilot program looks to address the historical driver shortage by enabling 18- to 20- year-old drivers to join the professional driver workforce and drive in interstate commerce after receiving rigorous training and certification. NATSO and SIGMA, however, are concerned that DOT is implementing the program in a manner that is not aligned with Congressional intent.”