USDOT Soliciting Comments on Supply Chain Challenges, Solutions

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Cranes and cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.

Cranes and cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking input on current and future supply chain challenges in the freight and logistics sector.

The feedback will help USDOT produce a report that President Joe Biden requested as part of his Feb. 24 Executive Order (EO) on securing and strengthening America’s supply chains.

The report is due within one year of the EO. It will cover “how the freight system supports supply chains and any challenges and resilience issues within that system,” USDOT wrote in a Sept. 16 Notice of Request for Information (download below). “DOT has heard from many stakeholders about issues related to bottlenecks on highways, rail, and at ports, as well as severe container/chassis shortages and lack of adequate warehousing capacity, particularly around the nation’s largest ports.”

USDOT is asking the public to provide, by Oct. 18, information on:

• “[M]ajor infrastructure or operational bottlenecks and chokepoints across all aspects of the freight and logistics supply chain—including shipping/receiving, intermodal transfer, rail/water/truck transportation, warehousing, etc.—that slow or impede efficient cargo movement within the freight and logistics sector, and the most effective investments and management practice improvements that could be made to alleviate those bottlenecks.

•  “Current and potential future shortages and/or distribution limitations of essential cargo-handling equipment, such as chassis and shipping containers, and how these challenges can be or are likely to be addressed by the freight and logistics industry over both the medium and longer term.

• “Warehouse capacity and availability, and any challenges faced in operating and siting/constructing those facilities, as well as challenges faced by third-party logistics service providers and other stakeholders in the logistic system.

• “Major risks to resilience within the freight and logistics sector (including defense, intelligence, cyber, homeland security, health, climate, environmental, natural, market, economic, geopolitical, human-rights, or labor-management risks). What factors help to mitigate, or conversely exacerbate, these risks?

• “The effects of climate change on transportation and logistics infrastructure and its implications for supply chain resiliency.

• “Technology issues, including information systems, cybersecurity risks, and interoperability, that affect the safe, efficient and reliable movement of goods. Would greater standardization of those technologies help address those challenges?

• “Key opportunities and challenges with respect to the existing and future workforce to ensure a well-functioning freight and logistics supply chain and achieve the President’s goal of increasing good-paying jobs with the choice of a union. Are there additional workforce or skill set opportunities and needs currently, or expected in the future?

• “Current barriers (including statutory, regulatory, technological, institutional, labor and workforce, management, existing business models/practices issues) that inhibit supply chain performance. For any barriers identified, please address the actors involved and potential outcomes should those barriers be removed.

• “Critical assets that the sector relies upon and their expected future availability. Would increasing domestic production of these assets be desirable or feasible as a means of ensuring greater supply chain resiliency (chassis, containers, etc.)?

• “Technological practices, including data sharing, that are being implemented at various levels across the supply chain sector. What are the upsides, challenges, and drawbacks of further adoption?

• “Actions that DOT or other agencies in the U.S. Government (USG) could take under existing authorities or in partnership with states, local governments, the private sector or labor to address current and evolving challenges within the freight and logistics sector.

• “Other policy recommendations or suggested executive, legislative or regulatory changes to ensure a resilient supply chain that DOT/USG should consider, including means to collaborate more effectively across government agencies and suggestions based on state and international models.

• “Recommended actions by non-federal entities, including state and local governments, private firms, labor, and other participants in the freight and logistics sector that could be encouraged by DOT/USG.

According to USDOT, its report will build off the work of the Supply Chain Disruption Task Force, which President Biden established on June 24, and is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Transportation, Agriculture and Commerce. The Task Force’s aim is to “address near-term challenges, with a focus on alleviating bottlenecks and supply constraints in the transportation sector, particularly for ports, rail and trucking.”

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