Supply Chain Infrastructure

shipping yard with colorful shipping containers

The issue

President Trump’s plan to provide ““gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways” as part of a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure campaign appears to be on hold until at least next year.

Trump pledged during January’s State of the Union address to make infrastructure improvements a top priority, and the following month sent Congress a legislative outline asking for $200 billion in federal money that would be leveraged with state, local and private funds for cover the total figure and provide the “safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure that our economy needs.” He also proposed streamlining the permitting and approval process for construction projects to a maximum of two years, with a one-year timeline where possible.

But the House and Senate have been focused on other issues this year, and the seed money sought by Trump didn’t make it into congressional spending bills. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in May that a comprehensive infrastructure rebuilding plan is not expected to move forward this year. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said during an Infrastructure Week event in Washington in May that the administration was still looking at a variety of funding sources – including a significant private-sector contribution – but did offer a timeline.

shipping containers on train

In an Infrastructure Week blog post, NRF called infrastructure “a missed opportunity” for Congress to build on 2017’s passage of landmark tax reform, and urged lawmakers to act as quickly as possible in 2019.

Trump’s proposal came at a time when U.S. transportation infrastructure has suffered from decades of underinvestment that has turned the system into a drag on the economy. Growing inefficiencies and bottlenecks increase costs and make it increasingly difficult for American companies to expand their businesses. Ultimately, the lack of infrastructure investment is reducing U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. NRF believes Congress needs to improve and expand infrastructure, improve system efficiency to handle increasing freight needs, and provide long-term funding.

Why it matters to retailers

empty loading dock

Retailers are among the nation’s largest shippers, moving hundreds of billions of dollars worth of merchandise via the nation’s ports, railroads and highways each year. The condition of the transportation system and its ability to move freight quickly and efficiently are vital to retailers’ businesses. Regulations impacting the movement of goods for security, safety and other matters also impact the ability of the nation’s retailers to get their goods to market.

NRF advocates for improved supply chain infrastructure

NRF has been a long-time advocate of improved infrastructure and the funding required to make improvements possible. NRF has particularly sought a national freight policy covering trucks, railroads and ships, which is included in the $300 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, a five-year transportation funding measure that runs through the end of 2020. The measure is intended to make it easier to move forward on major projects that would ease transportation bottlenecks, and NRF praised it for bringing “long-term stability to our nation’s surface transportation programs.

NRF welcomed Trump’s choice of Chao as transportation secretary, saying her background as a former deputy secretary of transportation, deputy administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration and chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission made her “perfectly suited” to head the department. NRF urged Chao to “address ongoing issues of infrastructure funding while ensuring that our transportation systems are truly state-of-the-art and able to handle expected increases in freight flows.”

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