US trade bodies urge Biden to act on supply chain woes

By Sean Ashcroft
In an open letter to President Biden, 97 US trade associations demand action in five key areas to end supply chain nightmare

A coalition of 97 US supply chain associations yesterday (November 3) called on the Biden Administration to work with them “to address the immense challenges impacting our nation’s supply chain”.

The bodies represent foodservice, trucking, warehousing, retail, construction, agriculture, energy and manufacturing. 

In an open letter to President Biden, the associations say that although they represent different industries, “we share the common burden of current supply chain disruptions”. 

These disruptions, they write, “are driving up prices and leading to a growing shortage of goods in the United States, with the holidays just around the corner”.

Access to US goods 'a right'

The open letter continues: “As business leaders and proud Americans, we are firmly committed to this country's economic recovery. We are working to usher in a return to normalcy and striving to help all Americans enjoy a better way of life by providing them with access to the essential products and supplies they need.”

The associations point out that President Biden has called on his Administration to strengthen supply chains. They reference Biden’s promise that “I will direct all appropriate action” should federal support be needed. 

Citing the “spirit” of that promise, the associations go on to ask the President for leadership on five areas of actions. 

The first is the Younger Driver Pilot Program. On this, they say: “We believe it is imperative to attract younger commercial drivers into our industries. We strongly support a pilot program that will enable employers to create a two-stage, safety-focused apprenticeship program to allow younger, qualified drivers – between the ages of 18 and 20 who satisfy rigorous safety, training, and technology requirements to operate in interstate commerce. 

Young blood 'key to truckers shortage'

“With 49 states and the District of Columbia already allowing drivers under the age of 21 to get their commercial driver’s license and operate intrastate, this pilot program will provide a real opportunity to address current and future driver shortages by promoting a career pathway in trucking and developing a professional, qualified, and highly-trained emerging transportation workforce.”

The second area the open letter addresses is the promotion of careers in transportation and the supply chain.

On this, they say: “We must work together to highlight the importance of transportation and supply chain jobs and how crucial they are to America’s families and communities. 

“We encourage federal agencies, including the US Departments of Transportation and Labor, to collaborate with industry and state and local partners to promote transportation and supply chain occupations, particularly commercial truck driving, as a career of choice. 

“Commercial truck drivers enjoy stability, good benefits, and higher-than-average wages. We can improve the lives of many unemployed and underemployed Americans by giving them opportunities for advancement while boosting the economy.”

Biden’s vaccine mandate is another area of concern. 

Vaccine mandate flexibility plea

“Our industries are committed partners in the fight against Covid-19,” they say, adding: “We unequivocally support the use of vaccines to fight its spread. However, we are concerned a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain. We estimate companies covered by the mandate could lose 37 per cent of drivers at a time when the nation is already short 80,000 truck drivers.”

The associations ask for vaccine flexibility for transportation and supply chain essential workers, “particularly truck drivers who spend most of their time in their trucks and have minimal contact with colleagues and customers”.

Hours of service relief is also something the open letter addresses, with the bodies saying that regulatory flexibility, particularly during emergencies “is vital to supply chain continuity”. 

They go on to say: “We continue to support last year’s changes to the hours of service regulations that give commercial truck drivers greater flexibility while improving safety and efficiency. 

“We encourage the Administration to retain these changes and consider providing additional flexibilities that may be needed for the timely delivery of essential goods and that make sense from a safety and operational standpoint. 

“Such flexibility is particularly important at ports that are open 24 hours to help alleviate current bottlenecks.”

Act now on clogged ports, Biden urged

The supply chain stakeholders also urge to President to act on port congestion in the US: “We encourage the Administration to continue to investigate the causes of inefficiencies at our nation’s ports, draw input from a wide variety of supply chain stakeholders, and work collaboratively to minimize the bottlenecks and operational practices that prevent the seamless movement of cargo through the supply chain. 

“Through continued dialogue and information sharing, appropriate action can be taken to ensure resources and equipment are utilized efficiently and effectively to improve performance at our nation’s ports.”

On all calls their calls to action, the associations say they “stand ready to assist in any way we can”.

Among co-signatories are the American Trucking Association, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, the National Retail Federation, the National Grocers Association and Retail Industry Leaders Association.

 

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