Business & Investment

Pete’s Rating: Infrastructure Boom or Supply Chain Collapse?

Pete Butigeg, who was nationwide exposed as a presidential candidate in the 2020 presidential election, became perhaps the most famous US Transport Secretary in history when sworn on February 3, 2021.

He joined the Biden administration just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to disrupt the domestic supply chain. At the same time, President Biden was pressured to realize the transformative transportation infrastructure package that was the main pillar on which his campaign was built. ..

Given the popularity of Butigeg (recently the Bobblehead doll became the first DOT secretary recognized by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame Museum) and the close cooperation with the Biden administration to improve cargo movements, he approaches. As he thought it appropriate to measure his success. His first year in office.

DOT veteran view

“For my first year DOT secretary, I was very impressed with what he had done,” former DOT officer Morton Downey told Freight Waves. Downey is in a good position to provide perspectives as the longest-serving US Deputy Secretary of Transport (1993-2001), who has worked with or met with all but one (Claude Bringer) DOT Secretary.

“When someone is recognized as being in harmony with what the president wants to accomplish and is trying to give the department a chance to shine, people respect it and listen to him. With a consistent message from the head, the whole department seems to have a good understanding of what they want to do. Without some leadership at the top, that wouldn’t happen. “

Butigeg’s role in the $ 1.2 trillion shepherd Infrastructure investment and employment law — Now called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) — “Only half of him, but half of the people actually perceive it as an infrastructure program,” Downey said.

In addition to the reapproval of the five-year ground transportation program, the $ 1.2 trillion BIL includes approximately $ 244 billion in new investment impacting freight transportation. Roads and bridges are $ 110 billion, railroads are $ 66 billion, airports are $ 25 billion, and ports are $ 17 billion and $ 15 billion. $ 11 billion for electric vehicles and for road safety.

“If he doesn’t make his part work, the whole package looks like it’s collapsed, so he knows what his department can do, how they accomplish it, and that’s what the Biden administration does. I’ve mentioned earlier how it relates to a broader purpose. “

Cargo lobby weighs

Elaine Nessle, executive director of the lobbying group Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, has agreed that Butigeg is the key to crossing the finish line with the largest infrastructure financing package in decades.

“Secretary Butigeg has confirmed that every corner of the country is aware of the need for investment, rather than continuing to postpone maintenance,” Nestle told Freight Waves. Told. “This is certainly considered the best achievement of the Biden administration, no matter what happens during the rest of his term.”

Butigeg also has the largest freight lobbying group in his corner, to the extent that he can admit that he has filed a proceeding against lawmakers and their members for passing a large BIL.

“Roads and bridges are not political. We all drive them,” commented Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, after President Biden. BIL legislated in November.. “The majority of the House and Senate realized this truth and did the right thing for the country, not for themselves.”

Butigeg February 2021 at Union Station in Washington, DC. (Photo: John Gallagher)

The government’s priority for infrastructure investment was the result of “bipartisan negotiations and tireless efforts,” said Ian Jeffreys, chairman and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads. “This package helps pave the way for a more modern, safer and more resilient infrastructure network.”

The American Port Authority has called BIL “an important step in relocating America’s competitive stance” in world trade. “The supplementary budget contained in this law is welcome news for freight transport and is primarily used to create a more fluid and resilient port system, including intermodal connections. “

Collapse the supply chain

But bipartisan praise for the Butigeg and Biden administrations has begun to decline, looking at the protracted supply chain turmoil and its role in causing the highest inflation levels in a few years.

Of course, most of the accusations come from only one side of the aisle, so it can be argued that it is purely partisan politics. But optics is important in Washington, and at least half of Capitol Hill is trying to hold the White House and DOT doors most, if not all, responsibility.

One of the loudest critics is Senator Rick Scott of R-Fla. As a member of the Senate Trade Commission, he confirms DOT and the Department of Commerce’s political appointments, including Mira Josie as the administrator of the Federal Automobile Carrier Safety Administration, that they come to the Capitol Hill. I held up until I was willing to. I testify about growing concerns about the supply chain.

“Due to the failure of the leadership of President Biden and his appointed people, we experienced a crisis after the crisis,” Scott said in December. “In fact, they are actively hurt [American families] Inflation has risen to record highs, threatening to rise further as Biden pushes his reckless tax and spending agenda. “

In response, Butigeg pointed out the steps he and the government took to deal directly with the crisis. Operates the port 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Stand up Trucking Action Plan The goal is to recruit and retain more truck drivers.

But the backlash isn’t just from his political enemies. Workers and container vessels were skeptical of the effectiveness of the 24/7 service to deal with long lines waiting to be unloaded at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Also, independent owners and operators, a key sector of the trucking industry, are not considering reducing the age of federal CDLs to 18 as a viable way to deal with driver retention.

“We also want the government to do more about the lack of parking,” Norita Taylor, public relations director for the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, told Freight Waves. A competitive grant program specializing in the expansion of truck parking was negotiated by BIL before the law was signed.

2022 Challenge

After the American Society of Civil Engineers Gave C-minus grade to American infrastructure In early 2021, ASCE President-elect Maria Lehman described her personal achievements as Butigeg led the DOT so far to ensure that billions of dollars were properly allocated to the state. I am doing it.

“From the experience of the secretary as mayor, he understands the importance of local infrastructure assets and the need to provide local support and support in the implementation of federal aid projects, as well as subsidized funding.” Lehman told Freight Waves.

” [BIL’s] Looking at future energy, sustainability and resilience, over 12 new highway programs have been developed. This is an amazing advance in less than two months after the law was enacted. “

But the 2022 road isn’t all that smooth for infrastructure and supply chains. Despite the actions taken by Butigeg and the administration to attack this issue, the vast backlog of ships awaiting unloading to the United States has a direct impact on the domestic supply chain. There were no signs of giving up..

In addition, a 20% increase in program funding included in BIL (against new investment funding) is currently bound by spending bills that have not yet been negotiated. That is, the state will receive those additional funds until the legislators can resolve the difference.

Former FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck has passed the steering wheel to the upcoming Biden administration as head of the agency and is currently working at self-driving truck startup Plus, but Butigeg-led DOT is a major challenge in terms of truck regulation. I think there is.

“I think he has a decent idea to move forward, including paying attention to driver payment issues and truck detention times,” Deck told Freight Waves. “But departments and institutions do not have much legal authority to deal with injustice detention times and driver payment issues, making these things difficult to implement.

“We also look forward to this year’s progress in autonomous truck regulation. Over the last two years, there have already been multiple delays, so he is really focused on the economic sector of trucking. I hope that is very important to all of us. ”

Click here for more Freight Waves articles by John Gallagher.

Pete’s Rating: Infrastructure Boom or Supply Chain Collapse? Pete’s Rating: Infrastructure Boom or Supply Chain Collapse?

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