US Retailers Urge Passage of Port Statistics Bill

The US National Retail Federation and more than 100 other business groups have issued a letter calling for passage of legislation that would require the country’s Transportation Department to track port statistics.

In the letter sent to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the retailers say that passage of the bill could help avoid a repeat of the congestion and slowdowns that occurred along the West Coast during the labor dispute resolved earlier this year.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was scheduled to vote Wednesday evening on the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, a six-year transportation authorization bill.

The authorization bill includes the language of the Ports Performance Act, which would require DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics to establish a port performance statistics program and report annually to Congress on the performance and capacity of the nation’s key ports.

Port authorities that receive federal assistance would be required to make annual reports to the bureau, and DOT would be required to work with the Commerce Department and Labor Department to report to Congress on ports’ performance before and after expiration of labor contracts to help indicate whether labor discussions have impacted operations, the economic impact of such disputes and how long it would take for shipments to return to normal.

The legislation was introduced in response to slowdowns that occurred at West Coast ports after the contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired in July 2014. Heated contract talks weren’t concluded until this February, after Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down to personally broker a deal, and backed-up cargo wasn’t cleared until May.

”US ports are a key component in the American transportation system and the global supply chain that thousands of businesses and millions of workers depend on,” the letter said. ”Unfortunately, due to a variety of contributing factors, congestion has become commonplace at ports across the country.”

”This congestion has resulted in slowdowns, bottlenecks and chokepoints that impact the efficient flow of cargo with far-reaching impacts. One only needs to look at the damage caused to the US economy from the slowdowns and congestion that impacted US ports earlier this year.”

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