May 10, 2023

Ranking Members Larsen, Norton Statements from Hearing on Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges


Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) during today’s hearing titled, “Freight Forward: Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges to Deliver for America.”

Video of Larsen and Norton’s opening statements are here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Larsen:

Thank you, Chair Crawford and Ranking Member Norton, for holding this hearing to continue the work of this Committee to strengthen our supply chain.

Last Congress, this Committee succeeded in passing laws to move our freight network in the right direction and to improve the nation’s infrastructure.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are making historic levels of investment in our supply chain.

The $350 billion in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) investment flowing to states, counties, and cities under the BIL is improving roads, bridges, freight corridors, and intermodal facilities.

This funding is working to tackle our largest infrastructure challenges and freight bottlenecks. Congress structured these investments so that every state benefits from these dollars, and every state has full control over how to invest them.

Ensuring a well-functioning supply chain means better infrastructure everywhere, and elimination of bottlenecks wherever they exist. Everyone who voted for the BIL voted to make our supply chain more efficient and more resilient.

The administration’s work to address supply chain challenges stemming from the pandemic also supports this goal.

The Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) effort, a public-private partnership to create information-sharing between elements of the supply chain, has reduced delays that stem from a lack of coordination.

Democrats also passed the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, bills to spur more U.S. manufacturing, leaving us less dependent on other countries and launching new industries at home.

We’re already seeing the benefits of these decisions, with more than $435 billion in major private sector investments in U.S. manufacturing since the start of this administration.

The challenges in the trucking supply chain that erupted during the pandemic came as little surprise to this Committee.

Chair Norton held a hearing in this Subcommittee in 2019—before the rest of the nation was paying attention—to highlight the pressure trucking companies and drivers are under to deliver goods efficiently with roadway congestion, outdated infrastructure, soaring freight demand, and workforce challenges.

That laid the groundwork for many proposals in the INVEST Act: $1 billion dedicated for truck parking; strong entry-level driver training investments; protecting U.S. drivers from unfair competition; and ensuring fair driver pay.

And while we’re no longer seeing the empty shelves and shipping delays we faced early in the pandemic, we’re far from solving some of the underlying problems in trucking that affect our supply chain.

So that leads us to the question—what are today’s key trucking supply chain challenges? 

Two words: safety and workforce.

The backbone of our supply chain is the people—the truck drivers, railroad workers, longshore workers, and warehouse workers—who support moving goods from Point A to Point B.

Truck drivers—including Teamster and OOIDA members who are represented here today—risked their own personal health and safety to get goods to market and deliver lifesaving medical supplies during COVID while they themselves had little support available with rest areas and services closed.

We owe them a debt of gratitude for their work every day as they continue to operate in difficult situations.

Too often, supply chain discussions solely focus on productivity—how much, how quickly, how cheaply—things can move.

But this lens skips over an integral part of the supply chain—people.

Protecting the safety of truck drivers and the traveling public must be our top priority. But safety indicators show that driving a truck continues to be a dangerous job. According to the National Safety Council, 5,788 people died in large-truck crashes in 2021, an increase of 47 percent over the last 10 years.

We also need to make sure workers are paid fairly. In many cases, truck drivers directly absorb the uncertainties of goods movement—everything from congestion and wait times at ports and shipper facilities to fluctuating fuel prices—in a way that you don’t see in other industries. Greater productivity does not mean greater pay in many segments of the industry.

If truck drivers are not safe, if they aren’t well-paid, if they aren’t well-rested, if they aren’t well-trained—we’re going to see the consequences.

We’re going to see fatalities, worker retention issues, and an inability for our supply chains to sustain economic growth.

I intend to focus the Committee’s attention on how Congress can best support workers to ensure they have a safe workplace and the tools to succeed in their jobs.

I understand from Chairman Graves that the Committee will soon consider a supply chain legislative package. I look forward to hearing ideas from our witnesses today to inform that effort.           


Ranking Member Norton:

I would like to thank Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford for holding this hearing on the trucking supply chain.

It is hard to fathom where our country would be without the trucking workforce. Trucks moved approximately 73% of all domestic freight by value, totaling 12.6 billion tons of freight in 2020. This essential workforce delivers for America and supplies everything from groceries, to clothing, to life-saving medicine.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains and highlighted longstanding challenges facing the trucking industry. Inadequate parking space, bottlenecks at ports, long hours on the road away from home—through all of it, truckers kept delivering for America. 

Our committee has already passed several pieces of legislation to address the supply chain challenges caused by the pandemic. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which include funding and policy changes that reduce freight congestion and bottlenecks, were enacted into law.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made major investments in our freight network, including $7.25 billion for INFRA grants and $7.15 billion for the National Highway Freight Program. These numbers demonstrate the commitment of President Biden and everyone who voted for the infrastructure law to improving freight transportation.

The focus of our hearing today is to hear from stakeholders on the challenges facing truckers and the industry as whole. I know that truckers form the foundation of our supply chain.

To that end, a secure and reliable supply chain must be a safe one. Supporting our workers through family-wage jobs, better working conditions, predictable and safe parking spaces and life-saving safety equipment ensures our freight moves.

I have long supported strong entry-level driver training standards so that we ensure truckers are fully prepared to safely operate their vehicles and deliver their freight. Providing robust training empowers drivers to be safe and confident on the road and is an important way to attract quality drivers.

Driver compensation is also at the heart of our discussions here today. Better wages will help the industry attract and retain its workforce. Simply put, better wages will ensure we have the capacity and capability to safely deliver goods on time. Better wages lead to a more secure supply chain.

Finally, safety is our highest priority—safety for truck drivers, and safety for everyone who shares the road with them. Far too many lives are lost each year in traffic crashes. For truck drivers, the roadway is their workplace—and we owe it to them and to all road users to improve our highway safety.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and hearing their proposals to improve safety, support workers and improve the reliability of our trucking supply chain. Thank you.