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InfrastructureNewsRegulatory Agencies

Biden spotlights computer chip shortage on visit to Mack Trucks plant

President vows to boost domestic production and announces plan to strengthen ‘Buy American’ agenda

President Joe Biden highlighted a production problem that Mack Trucks and other truck manufacturers have been facing this year because of a global shortage of computer chips that enable engine operations.

On a tour of Mack Trucks’ assembly plant in Macungie, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, Biden was told that the manufacturer was struggling to find the chips needed for engine assembly.

“We basically don’t make them anymore in America,” Biden said during a speech following the tour. “So I got together with a group of 20 [Senate] Republicans and Democrats and passed a new piece of legislation to … open up plants here in the United States and hiring American employees to make those computer chips so we’re not held hostage.”

If approved by the House, the legislation — the CHIPS For America Act — would create a $10 billion federal program that matches state and local incentives for companies to build semiconductor factories in the U.S.

Biden’s tour of Mack Trucks coincided with his announcing plans to put teeth into his “Buy American” agenda, rolled out earlier this year, through a new proposed rulemaking that would immediately increase the U.S.-made threshold for the value of a product’s component parts to 60% and a phased increase to 75%. The current Buy American statute requires products bought with taxpayer dollars must “substantially all” be made in the U.S. However, products currently can qualify if the component threshold is just 55%.

“In recent years, Buy American has become a hollow promise,” Biden said. “My administration is going to make Buy American a reality. I’m putting the weight of the federal government behind that commitment.”

Biden noted that his Buy American rules can help guarantee reliable markets, including those that benefit from electric vehicles.

“There are more than 600,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, the largest portion of which are for the U.S. post office,” he said. “As we work to electrify them, we’re going to be making a market for electric vehicles that support good jobs as well as innovation we need to electrify our transportation sector and clean up our environment at the same time.”

Biden also confirmed that Senate lawmakers had reached an agreement on a trillion-dollar infrastructure package, a framework for which had been announced in June. The package must still be approved by the full Senate and the House.

“I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done, because while there’s a lot we don’t agree on, I believe we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on,” Biden said.

Commenting on the agreement, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said it is “refreshing to see Congress do its job” by making progress on improving the country’s roads and bridges.

“We cheer this bipartisan breakthrough and hope it helps elected officials find more areas where they can work together to actually get things done.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

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