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Viewpoint: TCA and the FREIGHT Act

Proposal would make it easier for new drivers to get their CDL while maintaining current safety standards

The port crisis is well-documented, but its impacts are felt throughout the supply chain. The FREIGHT Act would help address some of these issues, including the ease by which new truck drivers can obtain their CDL. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

On Nov. 19, TCA voiced its public support for Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) new legislation, which makes an effort to identify and reduce the issues in the U.S. supply chain. The Facilitating Relief for Efficient Intermodal Gateways to Handle Transportation (FREIGHT) Act, S. 3262, would improve the efficient movement of freight at ports across the country and would advance other efforts to codify regulatory flexibility to help with the current supply chain crunch.

As we’ve experienced throughout the last few months, our nation’s supply chain is struggling to support the volume of goods that demand transport, leaving grocery shelves empty and creating long wait times for items ordered online. This supply chain crisis does not stem from a single problem but rather many factors, making it difficult to take direct action; however, Congress has been doing its best to come up with solutions, one of which is the FREIGHT Act.

Due to the everyday impact that the supply chain crisis has on American citizens, the Biden Administration has been working to remedy this issue through regulatory agencies and Congress. Though not all of these measures relate to the trucking industry directly, they indirectly benefit the industry in various ways. There have also been several proposals in Congress to find solutions, but the FREIGHT Act will specifically affect the long-haul segment of the trucking industry in a very meaningful way.

Increasing the size of the driver pool has been an industry goal for many years, and language is included in the FREIGHT Act to streamline the testing process commercial learner’s permit holders go through to obtain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). This more efficient standard of using third-party CDL skills examiners to facilitate the knowledge test has been used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ‘‘Waiver for States Concerning Third Party CDL Skills Test Examiners in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency’’ was put in place. This new flexibility for trainers has worked to reduce unnecessary wait time before testing for a CDL can be facilitated. If Sen. Wicker’s bill is passed, this will become the permanent standard for CDL testing.

TCA has advocated for safe supply chain solutions and is happy to see that the seriousness of the nation’s driver shortage has been recognized. The supply chain’s middle link is forged from the labor of long-haul truck drivers, therefore any hope at rebuilding the supply chain’s strength must take trucking into consideration.

TCA notes that any action to increase the driver pool while maintaining the highest of safety standards is always applauded. This work to bolster the American driver force and increase the nation’s long-haul trucking capacity is something that TCA believes will be a leap forward in solving the current supply chain crisis. As we continue to advocate for other measures to strengthen long-haul trucking’s capacity, such as full sleeper berth flexibility and interstate hauling ability for our drivers aged 18 to 21, we thank Sen. Wicker for introducing this important legislation and look forward to working with him in the future.


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