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 welcomed legislation recently passed by Congress to improve and expand infrastructure, boost system efficiency to handle increasing freight needs and provide badly needed funding.
The U.S. supply chain also suffers from a shortage of truck drivers. With the average age of drivers rising and many retiring, the American Trucking Associations estimates that more than 80,000 driving jobs have gone unfilled in 2021. The industry will need to hire nearly 1 million new drivers over the next decade.
Adding to those issues, supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and increased consumer demand have further exacerbated ongoing issues and have created challenges for retailers that make infrastructure improvements more essential than ever.
Why it matters to retailers
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, which provided funding for federal transportation initiatives over the past five years.
NRF welcomed passage of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law this November, saying it will allow the nation’s transportation system to “capitalize on growing consumer demand as well as sustain future disruption challenges.” NRF supported the legislation with a six-figure ad campaign emphasizing the importance of transportation infrastructure to the retail industry and the nation’s economy.
The landmark package extends federal highway funding by including the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, creates an Office of Multimodal Freight Transportation long sought by NRF, establishes a pilot program for young truck drivers to help ease the nationwide shortage of drivers, and funds improved broadband internet access vital to digital goods and services that are intrinsically woven into the future of retail. Those and other provisions will provide the largest investment in the nation’s infrastructure in decades, helping create the modernized and expanded infrastructure system that is vital to American businesses and global competitiveness.
With the retail industry challenged by supply chain disruptions in 2021, NRF this year called on President Biden to make the supply chain a top administration priority and welcomed the appointment of a first-ever “port envoy” to address port issues. NRF also participated in a White House supply chain summit and shared retailers’ concerns about ongoing challenges.
Among other efforts, NRF this fall launched the Save Our Shipments campaign, which called for passage of both the infrastructure bill and the DRIVE Safe Act, which would create the truck driver pilot program that was eventually included in the infrastructure bill. NRF is continuing to seek action on the third element of the campaign, passage of H.R. 4996, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, which would address longstanding unfair business practices by ocean carriers and port terminal operators.