Supply Chain Infrastructure

shipping yard with colorful shipping containers

The issue

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.

The U.S. supply chain also suffers from a shortage of truck drivers. With the average driver now 46 years old and many retiring, the American Trucking Associations estimates that more than 60,000 driving jobs went unfilled in 2019. The industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade.

shipping containers on train


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. The truck driver shortage and regulations impacting the movement of freight 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 helped win establishment of a national freight policy covering all modes of transportation, including trucks, railroads and ships, as part of the $300 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act transportation funding measure. The legislation has made it easier to move forward on major projects that ease transportation bottlenecks but is set to expire on September 30, 2021.

As Congress works on a new transportation funding bill, NRF is advocating for a long-term, sustainable source of revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund, which relies on fuel taxes that have not been increased in decades. NRF believes users should support the system but opposes freight fees or freight taxes that would overly burden one segment of users. NRF also wants to see creation of an Office of Multimodal Freight Transportation, federal policy that would enhance freight system efficiency and throughput, and adoption of innovative government approaches to improve efficiency and reduction congestion similar to the Federal Maritime Commission’s Supply Chain Innovation Teams. With digital goods and services woven into the future of retail, Congress also needs to build out America’s broadband infrastructure, including adoption of policies to help rural, urban and other underserved consumers connect with retailers.

NRF welcomed a deal announced between President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators, saying “a bipartisan pathway for this essential investment is the surest way to achieve progress.” The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework would provide $1.2 trillion over eight years, including $579 billion in new spending.

NRF is also seeking common-sense trucking regulation, such as modernization of trucking equipment, including allowing twin trailers up to 33 feet long rather than the current 28 feet. NRF supports legislation that would help relieve the nation’s critical shortage of truck drivers. Under current law, individuals under 21 years old are prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle across state lines even if they live in a state that allows them to obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18. NRF supports the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would establish an apprenticeship program in which drivers between 18 and 21 would be accompanied by experienced commercial drivers while being trained in trucks equipped with advanced safety features. Those who successfully complete the program would then be allowed to drive commercial trucks in interstate commerce on their own.

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