Well, the election has finally come and gone. With luck, things will settle down and something can be accomplished in Congress, particularly on those issues that affect our supply chain. During the campaign, we heard a multitude of promises from both candidates, and now it is time to see which promises will be kept.
I realize I always ask you to resolve the hard problems and sometimes request the same things two or three years in a row, but this year, in particular, supply chain managers need your help. The truck driver hours-of-service controversy continues, and Public Citizen has filed a suit seeking to reduce daily driving limits to 10 hours. The suit has been challenged by the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. I hope you will bring the court stockings full of wisdom to get this resolved once and for all. Enough is enough. I dare say you already have reindeer keeping two sets of log books. You can't get a lot done in 10 hours on Christmas Eve.
Just a week after you finish your deliveries for the year, economists and others are predicting some pretty dire circumstances as we hit the "fiscal cliff," where taxes, tax breaks, and spending cuts all intersect. Naturally, a lot depends on where the economy goes from there, but I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the "supply chain cliff," the point at which the cost of providing the kind of service that consumers demand becomes so high that they're no longer willing to pick up the tab. Hours-of-service restrictions, driver shortages, capacity constraints, fuel costs, and infrastructure issues all are contributing to higher transportation costs, and I believe will continue to do so. The e-commerce people have it right: If you want your order overnight, you pay a premium price. If you don't care when it gets there, you pay less. These options are not always available with other kinds of shipments. How about contacting a couple of our more forward-thinking academics or consultants and asking them to develop a cafeteria plan for freight pricing? We will not be able to provide perfect service with such an imperfect supply chain.
The last thing on my list is a repeat request. In spite of all the conversation about our crumbling infrastructure, little is being accomplished, at least not for the overall good. We need to rid ourselves of the notion that this is all about jobs. Legislation must focus on our roads and bridges and a broad network of highways that will allow for the smooth movement of goods while at the same time providing for national defense. Much of the stimulus funds were squandered on so-called "shovel ready" projects that did little, if anything, to boost the efficiency of interstate commerce. My fervent hope is that you can convince our leaders they must develop a firm plan for improving our infrastructure and, along with the states, provide the resources to accomplish it. The jobs will follow. We need to look no further than the interstate system conceived in 1956 for a model. This system, mandated by the federal government, provided not only for efficient transportation, but thousands of construction and roadside business jobs. But this system is old and tired. It needs help.
I can't think of anyone better than you to influence our leaders to work toward this goal, keeping in mind that you will be dealing with a relatively unchanged Congress. But, as long as you control the toys, you're the man.