Retail groups are urging passage of legislation requiring the Transportation Department to track port statistics

Retail groups are urging passage of legislation requiring the Transportation Department to track port statistics

US retailers are calling for a port statistics bill that they say would help avoid a repeat of the West Cost slowdown.

In a letter to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, The National Retail Federation (NRF) and around 100 business groups urge passage of legislation that would require the Transportation Department to track port statistics. This, they say could help avoid a repeat of the congestion and slowdowns that occurred along the West Coast during the labor dispute resolved earlier this year.

A new bill - The Protecting Orderly and Responsible Transit of Shipments Act (PORTS) - was passed last month, aimed at preventing future port disruptions, after a nine-month long labour dispute saw congestion at US West Coast ports reach "breaking point" earlier this year.

The Committee, however, are scheduled to vote this week on the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, a six-year transportation authorisation bill. The bill includes the language of the Ports Performance Act, which would require DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics to establish a port performance statistics programme 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.

"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," it added. "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."