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F3 chat: Take politics out of 24/7 supply chains

Transportation strategist Loren Smith talks policy on port operations, infrastructure and vaccine mandate for truckers

Smith discusses recent transportation policy at FreightWaves' F3 conference.

This fireside chat recap is from Day 2 of FreightWaves’ F3 Virtual Experience.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: View from Washington: Policy in the driver’s seat.

DETAILS: Lawmakers in the nation’s capital have never been more involved in decisions that affect freight supply chains than they have during the past year. This fireside chat focuses on the latest regulations affecting motor carriers and drivers, including infrastructure funding, port congestion and vaccine mandates.

SPEAKER: Loren A. Smith Jr., president of the Skyline Policy Risk Group.

BIO: Smith, a transportation policy expert, worked at the Department of Transportation as deputy assistant secretary for policy from 2017 to 2021. His leadership there included serving as DOT’s chief environmental review permitting officer, chair of the management team for the ROUTES Initiative on rural transportation and as a member of the task force on regulatory reform, which included leading efforts on supersonic aviation. From 2009 to 2016 he was an analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington-based research firm that studies public policy for investors.


“Will the move by ports to 24/7 operations solve the supply chain problem? Definitely not. The recognition that ports need to be moving all the time — getting cargo off the boats and onto the trucks — has to happen a lot faster. But they need to have more workers who can get things unloaded.”

“A vaccine mandate probably has a fairly small net-negative [impact] on the number of available truck drivers — partly because of the vaccine itself, partly because people don’t like to be ordered to do something. But in the current environment, the system could stand to use a lot more truckers. Whether or not it has to do with pay, no one thinks the driver population is large enough to support [demand]. So even if you take away 2% of the drivers, that’s going to have an outsized cost on the system.”

“We have a growing mismatch between broader cultural acceptance of marijuana and other recreational drugs, yet you still have exactly the same number of jobs in the country where you can’t have the person be high, which is the case with trucking. The federal agencies — HHS and DOT — are working on developing hair testing. That’s going to be an area of intense focus in the next few years.”

John Gallagher

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.