Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Keeping Supply Chains on Track

Keeping Supply Chains on Track
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
September 16, 2022

Cargo ships to planes, semi-trucks to trains, it seems we keep hitting roadblock after roadblock to get our supply chain on the right track – and keep it there.

First, it was the clogged ports due to unfair practices by cargo shipping companies. My Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) addressed this issue and now the average shipping rate is less than half the price before OSRA became law.

Next, it was the airlines. The looming pilot shortage is threatening to disrupt already difficult air travel and air cargo shipments. I introduced the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act with U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) to allow pilots to fly for two more years than they are currently allowed, effectively filling the 12,000-pilot shortage that will be caused by their retirement under current law.

Then, it was trucking. An 80,000-truck driver shortage combined with new, more stringent CDL requirements, not enough safe truck stops, and record-high gas prices, provided another obstacle for the supply chain. I pushed the Biden Administration to allow 18-year-olds with a trucking license to drive across state lines and delay the new Entry-Level Driver Training rule earlier this year, and I introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act to alleviate the parking shortage and make driving safer for all.

Now, at a time when Americans are still experiencing supply chain delays, record-high prices, and persistent inflation, earlier this week we saw what could happen if rail workers go on strike. Labor negotiations between railroad workers and railroad companies lasted three years, but if they didn’t reach a deal by midnight last night, the workers would go on strike.

Unsure if an agreement would be met, early this week, rail companies were canceling shipments of hazardous materials, fertilizer, grain, animal feed, and refrigerated goods. These cancelations gave us a preview of how cancelation of all freight would cause major disruptions to our economy, supply chain, food supply, and energy supply. A disruption like this would cause $2 billion of economic losses per day. Even a short-term disruption could cause massive problems in the supply chain.

The supply chain backlogs that began at our ports trickled down to our freight rail networks, and a strike by employees would exacerbate these delays. In August, I introduced the Freights First Act to ease the supply chain-related gridlock and delays by prioritizing the movement of goods by freight rail.

I am even more grateful an agreement between rail companies and workers was reached after seeing this week’s news that food-at-home prices are up 13.5% over the past year. This is a stark reminder of how high the stakes are to keep the rail supply chain moving. An efficient and effective supply chain is necessary to bolster our economy. It is imperative that we keep our trains on track, and our supply chain and our country moving in the right direction.