WASHINGTON — US agriculture industry groups are lining up to support legislation under consideration in Congress that is intended to improve truck transportation, which they noted is facing operational challenges that have a direct impact on the agricultural supply chain.

The Agricultural Transportation Working Group, which consists of 84 member associations, is urging lawmakers to support the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking Act (SHIP IT) introduced by US Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Jim Costa (D-Calif).

In a March 8 letter sent to leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the group said trucks are the linchpin of the transportation sector with most forms of freight trucked at least once during the supply chain process. 

Among the national groups that joined state and regional associations in signing the letter were the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), the Pet Food Institute (PFI), the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), and the North American Renderers Association (NARA), alongside 80 other industry associations.

“The Pet Food Institute commends Congressmen Dusty Johnson and Jim Costa on introducing the bipartisan Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act,” stated Dana Brooks, president and chief executive officer of PFI. “Supply chain issues have negatively impacted the availability of dog and cat food. This bill will help enable pet food makers to consistently and timely deliver complete and balanced nutrition to America’s pets. We urge Congress to quickly pass this critical legislation.”

Signees said SHIP IT would provide meaningful solutions to address the need for more truck drivers, truck parking, productivity, environmental efficiency, options during emergencies, and flexibility for agricultural haulers.

“The pandemic highlighted the importance of trucking to our nation’s wellbeing, and we believe economic and environmental benefits can be unlocked through legislative reform,” the letter said. “SHIP IT aims to bolster our nation’s driver workforce with two years of tax incentives for qualified drivers, grants to help cover driver schooling costs, and additional options for obtaining commercial drivers’ licenses. The bill also provides authorization for additional parking facilities to help improve drivers’ quality of life.”

SHIP IT also allows states to opt into pilot programs to permit trucks with at least six axles to weigh up to 91,000 lbs on interstate highways. The additional axle and associated set of brakes increase stopping capability, the groups noted, and trucks would be required to comply with the federal bridge formula and axle weight limits to protect bridges and roads. 

For agricultural haulers, SHIP IT also provides a 150-air-mile exemption from hours-of-service regulations on the backend of hauls to provide flexibility for agriculture and its seasonal changes in freight demand getting raw commodities from the field to the first point of processing.

For example, according to a US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, trucks were responsible for transporting 915.675 million tonnes of cereal grains in the United States in 2022, about 77% of the total of all shipping modes.

“We believe by supporting SHIP IT, Congress can achieve positive benefits for the environment while improving the economic competitiveness of the United States,” the letter concluded. “We look forward to working with you in support of improving US transportation and bolstering America’s infrastructure.”

Read more about supply chain topics affecting the industry on our Operations page.