How the US Chamber plans to form provide chain coverage in Washington

Because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s professional on provide chain and customs-related points, John Drake lately added two associated coverage areas — transportation and infrastructure — to his portfolio which can be additionally main priorities for his members.

In his new position because the vp of transportation, infrastructure and provide chain coverage, Drake is tasked with main the Chamber’s advocacy on all these points on Capitol Hill and inside the administration.

Given his promotion earlier this month, we needed to listen to extra from Drake about what he might be specializing in as provide chain and infrastructure stay a high concern for U.S. companies.

How the US Chamber plans to form provide chain coverage in Washington
U.S Chamber’s John Drake
(credit score: U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

FREIGHTWAVES: Provide chain and transportation/infrastructure was once below separate portfolios on the Chamber. Why are they being mixed?

DRAKE: “Provide chain challenges in addition to transportation and infrastructure funding are vital points for the enterprise neighborhood. The first justification for combining the 2 roles into one is as a result of there’s numerous overlap in these two buckets. After I was simply doing provide chain work, a lot of the main focus was on ships and the backups on the ports, despite the fact that you possibly can make the case it was a transportation and infrastructure subject.

“So when Ed Mortimer moved on [to NextNav, in March, after heading up infrastructure and transportation policy at the Chamber], it appeared to make sense to mix them. There are numerous overlapping points that the members care about in each areas, so we determined to mix them and have a single level of contact. And we’re hiring individuals to construct out the group, so I believe in numerous methods we’re turning this into a bigger follow inside the Chamber.”

Senate’s ocean transport reform most popular over Home

FREIGHTWAVES: What are a few of your legislative priorities going into the midterm elections?

DRAKE: “An enormous focus is the America Competes/USICA [U.S. Innovation and Competition Act] laws. It features a provide chain resiliency workplace to be established on the Division of Commerce, which is meant to take a strategic take a look at the resiliency of key provide chains important to the united stateseconomy. We’re spending numerous time educating policymakers on what’s good and never so good in each these payments. We need to be certain the Senate’s USICA model is what makes it throughout the end line.

“The Ocean Transport Reform Act [OSRA] is getting fairly a little bit of consideration. Each the Home and Senate variations have handed their respective chambers, I believe that may possible get negotiated into regulation earlier than the tip of the 12 months. Once more, there are components of each payments we’ve got considerations with, there are components of each that we like. There are a selection of provisions within the Home invoice that a few of our members have important considerations with, and I believe the Senate model appears to be fairly affordable laws.

“Concerning the [upcoming] FAA reauthorization invoice, airfreight is essential due to the high-value merchandise carried. The invoice is commonly a car for different proposals as nicely — for instance, TSA reauthorization that was included within the final FAA reauthorization in 2018. That may have numerous curiosity for our members that need to adjust to safety necessities.

“After that, we’re centered on the success of the infrastructure invoice, ensuring that these {dollars} are spent nicely, however the largest obstacle to it’s the allowing course of. We have to take a look at methods to approve these initiatives in a extra well timed trend. We’d love the administration to lean in on the brand new authorities within the infrastructure invoice and acknowledge that there needs to be a course of, but it surely shouldn’t take 10-15 years to get by.

Lengthy-term view on diesel worth surge

FREIGHTWAVES: Diesel costs — a giant operational price for trucking — have been on the rise. What insurance policies does the Chamber help to handle this?

DRAKE: “To take gasoline off the desk, or push insurance policies that make it more durable to search out new sources of fossil fuels, are dangerous. So on the allowing aspect for brand new power initiatives, I believe we should be conscious as a result of vehicles will nonetheless be requiring diesel for the close to future.

“The Chamber doesn’t help a fuel tax vacation — it’s not clear that that may really end in a reducing of costs, whereas the revenues generated from that tax are important for constructing the infrastructure we’d like going ahead.

“Gas costs are the No. 1 driver of prices for the trucking trade, which is hurting due to this but additionally attributable to labor challenges. The transportation workforce on common is older than the overall workforce. Quite a lot of drivers we misplaced through the pandemic that both retired early or discovered one thing else aren’t coming again. That’s why I believe there’s actual alternative on the motive force aspect to get the under-21 pilot underway at DOT.”

Waterfront automation needs to be on negotiating desk

FREIGHTWAVES: How carefully are you following contract negotiations between the West Coast dockworkers and the container terminal operators?

DRAKE: “I believe the administration wants to know that these negotiations going south is dangerous for everyone, particularly should you care about congestion at our ports, and inflation usually. So I believe the administration must lean in arduous to get a very good decision to this subsequent contract. A part of that must be automation.

“Arguably the 2 most vital ports within the U.S., Los Angeles and Lengthy Seaside, account for about 40% of all containers coming into the nation. However should you take a look at a rating from a productiveness standpoint, they’re one thing like Nos. 328 and 333 on this planet. They don’t have room to increase, so it’s important to work out methods to make them extra aggressive and transfer items quicker, and the easiest way to do this is thru automation. That must be included within the subsequent contract, and the administration may do an ideal service by recognizing that and exhibiting a path ahead on that.” 

FREIGHTWAVES: What’s going to you deal with within the subsequent floor transportation reauthorization, which might take us past 2026?

DRAKE: “One of the vital components would be the pay-fors. There was rising indifference by policymakers to boost the fuel tax, which traditionally has been the first technique to pay for all these floor packages — truck security oversight, [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] analysis, and numerous the freight-specific grants that come out of the [Federal Highway Administration].

“Our perspective on that is that you just want a devoted income to pay for these packages as a result of these are vital nationally. The U.S. is closely reliant on the standard of our transportation infrastructure and should you neglect it, it’s going to harm the competitiveness of our financial system.

“I believe one of many issues we are able to do is take a look at alternate options to the fuel tax after which educate policymakers on what are a number of the choices on the menu that they will take a look at. It’s a multiyear effort. We’re seeking to fund a examine on a car miles traveled tax, and FHWA is seeking to do a VMT pilot program over the subsequent 12 months or so. We wish our examine to assist inform that pilot so we are able to current the perfect case doable to policymakers.”

FREIGHTWAVES: What’s your long-term outlook for the fuel tax?

DRAKE: “Should you take a look at the long-term viability of the fuel tax, it’s important to contemplate the impact of the electric-vehicle penetration into the market over the subsequent 5 years — the rise is dramatic. With each gasoline-powered car changed by an EV, you will have one much less income for the freeway belief fund. So I believe whereas we have been supportive of a fuel tax improve within the quick time period, we’ve got to start out taking a look at what the subsequent infrastructure income generator goes to be.”

Click on for extra FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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