New Bill Aims to Address Trucking’s Greatest Woes

As that one Michael Jackson song goes, “The fire is in their eyes and their words are really clear. So, ship it, just ship it.” Those are the lyrics, right?

On January 24, a congressional duo of representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Jim Costa (D-CA) introduced the SHIP IT, or the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking, Act. The proposed bill focuses on providing recruiting and retention incentives for truck drivers, while increasing transportation capacity.

Courtesy of Land Line, the SHIP IT Act would:

  • Allow states to issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads during emergencies.
  • Allow truck drivers to apply for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants.
  • Attempt to recruit truck drivers to the industry through targeted and temporary tax credits.
  • Streamline the CDL process, making it easier for states and third parties to administer CDL tests.
  • Expand access to truck parking and rest areas for commercial drivers.

Through the bill, current truck drivers who logged at least 1,900 hours in a year could be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit (depending on their income). New truck drivers could be eligible for a $10,000 tax credit.

Ocean had OSRA, trucking has SHIP IT?

As one half of the bill’s trust, Representative Dusty Johnson alluded to the “slew of freight disruptions” that have occurred over the past few years in a news release. The South Dakotan congressman touted last year’s reform to ocean shipping, but also acknowledged other parts of the supply chain, like trucking, are in need of support.

Representative Johnson envisions the SHIP IT Act as a bringer of supply chain improvements. In his words, the bill would “bridge gaps, keep costs down for consumers, and make it easier for shippers to move products across the U.S.”.

Representative Jim Costa echoes his partner-in-legislation’s sentiment. The congressman added that recruiting, training, and retaining truck drivers is crucial to keep America’s supply chain moving and ushering a fit for trucking in the modern economy.

Bill sees support from trade groups

Several trade groups have expressed support for the bill. From dairy to heavy-duty manufacturing, the SHIP IT Act has found allies in many industry corners.

Michael Dykes, President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, endorsed the bill as commonsense trucking reform. He went on to say, “The legislation would bring the U.S. supply chain into the 21st century to meet the needs of shippers…and support the ambitious sustainability goals of dairy businesses”.

Another diary group, National Milk Producers Federation, added the perishable nature typically inherent in the industry’s products. The group’s president Jim Mulhern said, “Milk is a perishable commodity that needs to move quickly along the supply chain…important provisions [in the SHIP IT Act] will improve transportation efficiency and sustainability in the U.S. dairy industry.

In another realm—heavy-duty manufacturing—Hendrickson, a South Dakota-based parts supplier to truck manufacturers, applauds the bill’s efforts to ease recruitment of qualified truck drivers. The company’s president commends the bill as a “positive step for the supply chain”.

Trucking group says bill “misses the mark”

One of the more fascinating stakeholders to keep an eye on will be trucking advocacy groups. Truck drivers will be the most impacted if this legislation is enacted.

There appears to be pros with the bill. Truck parking (the most vocalized concern of truckers) and a driver shortage are two challenges facing the industry that aren’t going to go away anytime soon. In theory, the SHIP IT Act will rollout some needed relief for these two areas of support.

That said, the bill is appreciated by truck driver groups, but some remain speculative on its ability to support truckers and improve supply chain fluidity.  

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) thanked representatives Johnson and Costa for addressing these issues, however the group believes the bill comes up short.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh told Land Line, “[SHIP IT Act] misses the mark by failing to fix the underlying causes of the driver retention problem in trucking, including a lack of adequate compensation from carriers and a failure of shippers and carriers to value any of a trucker’s time.”

On behalf of OOIDA, Pugh went on to say the group looks forward to working with the representatives to “advance policies that support truckers…instead of policies that subsidize big businesses like shippers and carriers and continue churning drivers in and out of trucking.”

Final Thoughts

Freight volumes have receded from the astronomical levels they were at just a year ago so it may have become easier to ignore America’s truck driver shortage to an extent.

However, industry remains in dire straits. Not only is there an outstanding driver deficit, but the median age of truckers is also between 51- and 52-years-old. Recruitment (and retention) of drivers, particularly of younger ages, will be crucial in any strategy.

While trade groups are onboard with the SHIP IT Act, it appears not every trucking advocacy group is on the same page yet.

The first step—acknowledgement of needed improvements—seems to be accomplished. The next step—agreement on advancing policies—is still unclear.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic or any others in domestic logistics. In addition, stay up to date with weekly headlines from both trucking and rail via our Road Map newsletter.

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