U.S. Retail Lobby Sends S.O.S. to Congress on Supply-Chain Chaos

Los Angeles

The U.S.’s biggest retail lobby asked Congress to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as well as update shipping and trucking laws to ease a supply-chain crisis that’s raising prices and causing shortages.

Lawmakers “can help retailers keep store shelves stocked and address some of the issues plaguing supply chains by acting on a few pieces of critical legislation,” the National Retail Federation — which represents vendors from mom-and-pop stores through the big-box chain behemoths — said in a blog Tuesday.

Logjams throughout manufacturing, transport, retail and labor have deteriorated to the point that the Biden administration has had set up a task force to smooth out the bottlenecks as the holiday shopping season looms.

Having the House pass the infrastructure bill that went through the Senate in early August would make funds available to modernize ports, roads and bridges, which would help “save our shipments,” the NRF said.

Outdated federal regulations prohibit truckers aged 18 to 20 from driving across state lines, exacerbating the shortage of drivers that the American Trucking Associations estimate at about 80,000, the federation said. The bipartisan Drive Safe Act, which was reintroduced as a bill in the House in March, would allow for the legal operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by holders of commercial drivers’ licenses under the age of 21.

In a July executive order, President Joe Biden targeted uncompetitive practices in the container-shipping industry — where 85% of capacity is controlled by about 10 major carriers — calling on the Federal Maritime Commission to vigorously enforce rules so exporters aren’t hit with “exorbitant charges.”

Ocean-freight rates to bring goods from China to U.S. West Coast ports peaked at a record $20,586 per 40-foot container and at more than $16,000 now remain multiples above the $1,590 pre-pandemic average.

Passing the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act would establish minimum service requirements for contracts to ensure that freight is not unreasonably refused and give the commission new enforcement tools, the NRF said.

[bloomberg]

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