A federal advisory committee is recommending that the Biden administration work out a plan to give voluntary and paid truck driving jobs to active military, veterans and National Guardsmen to clear cargo containers from congested ports.
The recommendation, part of several made earlier this week by the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC) to address the ongoing freight supply chain crisis, adds to growing pressure on federal agencies to take more decisive action.
ACSCC, a group within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, approved the recommendation on Thursday to be submitted to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“The intent behind this is, there’s a shortage of drivers, and I’m beginning to learn there’s also a shortage of trucks due to parts shortages,” said ACSCC Vice Chairman Rick Gabrielson, who also runs a logistics consultancy. “But in talking with a number of trucking companies, they do have trucks up against the fence and they could use some support. It won’t solve the entire problem, but it may help go through and get some cargo moved which helps with the congestion.”
The panel urges the Commerce Department to work with the Department of Defense as well as ports and trucking company leaders to “immediately promote and facilitate volunteer opportunities at U.S. trucking companies, as well as compensated activities to the extent allowed” by the Defense Department and ethics rules.
“The [Commerce] Department, together with the Department of Transportation, should work with the U.S. insurance industry to resolve impediments to this effort,” according to a letter to be sent to Raimondo.
Gabrielson pointed out that military truck driving experience is not always recognized by the insurance agencies. “Maybe this is a foundation for individuals who come out from serving our country and would like to continue that vocation.”
Also recommended to Raimondo by the panel on Thursday was urging Congress to establish a baseline $1,000-per-chassis investment tax credit or rebate for U.S. truck chassis manufacturers to stimulate increased U.S. truck chassis production. “Consideration should be given to the use of radial tires, LED lights, and tracking options in the manufacturing process,” the panel advised.
The recommendation also included providing a one-time grant to any U.S. truck chassis manufacturer that establishes a new U.S. production site and commits to producing an agreed-upon minimum number of container chassis per year. ACSCC further advised a two-year suspension of U.S. countervailing duties on chassis manufactured in China as an additional move to address the chassis shortage.
Other recommendations by the panel included establishing a short-term, public-private supply chain “congestion crisis collaboration group” at major container ports that uses all available industry and government resources to expedite container cargo between the ports and end users.
The department was also advised by the panel to work with other federal agencies to incentivize U.S. ports, trucking companies, railroads and shippers to install information-sharing technologies and cargo location data to help each supply chain link improve cargo movement throughout the ports’ supply chains.
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