In order to address the supply chain crisis, Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) have introduced the “Surpassing Temporary Obstructions at Ports and Guaranteeing Resources to Increase the Nation’s Commercial Health Act (STOP the GRINCH Act).” This bill would authorize several regulatory waivers in order to allow the supply chain to recover without unnecessary government barriers.
Because of shutdowns, stimulus checks, and federal unemployment insurance, which paid Americans to stay at home, America is facing a supply chain crisis. On the West Coast, there is a massive backlog of vessels waiting to unload their cargo, but there are simply not enough laborers and truckers to keep up with demand. Now, Americans are experiencing consumer product shortages, which could be an even more severe problem as the holiday season has begun.
In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, every state and the federal government issued hundreds of regulatory waivers to deal with the economic and physical strain the virus created. The STOP the GRINCH Act would continue this regulatory relief through the following reforms:
- Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to temporarily waive trucking hours of service requirements for truck drivers and motor carriers who are transporting cargo directly to or from a U.S. port. Currently, there is an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty, a 14-hour limit in which a driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty, and a requirement that drivers take a 30 minute break for every 8 hours of driving. Also, drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
- Requires the FMCSA to allow drivers down to age 18 to receive a temporary commercial driver’s license (CDL) for transport to and from a U.S. port (1 year sunset). Currently, 18-year-old drivers can currently acquire a CDL, but cannot drive across state lines or haul hazardous materials until they are 21 years old.
- Requires the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration to jointly prioritize and expedite the consideration and hiring of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials applications for workers at U.S. ports, providing ports with much-needed labor.
- Requires the Department of Homeland Security to provide temporary waivers of the Jones Act for vessels that are transporting cargo from a U.S. port to a U.S. port to relieve supply chain backlogs.
- Requires the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation to consult ocean carriers, ports, railroads, and truckers to identify and designate plots of federal land that could temporarily (no more than 6 months) be used for the storage and transfer of empty cargo containers.
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to take an inventory of intermodal equipment and permit trucking companies to lease such equipment.
In addition to causing consumer product shortages, the supply chain crisis has also contributed to rising prices across the nation.
The consumer price index increased by 6.2 percent on an annualized basis before seasonal adjustment in October, a 31-year high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Already, low-income families are struggling because of rising costs. According to a new Gallup poll, 71 percent of low-income households have reported experiencing financial hardship due to rising prices. Of the 71 percent, 28 percent of low-income households say they have experienced “severe hardship” due to rising prices, and 42 percent say they have experienced “moderate hardship.”
At this point, it is unacceptable for the government to sit back while Americans’ lifesavings and wages lose value and their access to goods is dwindled. One of the best ways to address this issue is to roll back existing, burdensome mandates that only exacerbate the crisis. Lawmakers should cosponsor and support H.R. 6028, the STOP the GRINCH Act.