US retailers have applauded the House of Representatives for passing a long-term transportation bill they say is critically important to their businesses –  even though an amendment supported by apparel and footwear firms that would have required ports to report key metrics on their operations was withdrawn.

The 'Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015' includes major reforms that would strengthen the nation's freight infrastructure, a key priority for an industry that moves hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of merchandise each year.

"Long-term surface transportation reauthorisation is needed to address the growing bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain resulting from a lack of infrastructure investment," said David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation (NRF) in a letter to Congress supporting the bill.

French said the legislation would "provide long-term stability to the nation's surface transportation programmes."

"While we are happy to see a renewed focus on freight movement, we are disappointed that the House did not pass amendments on truck productivity or port performance," French said after last week's vote.

"We continue to believe that these provisions would help retailers and other freight stakeholders improve efficiency throughout their supply chains."

His comments are echoed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), which says the port data collection amendment "represents an important first step to gain empirical visibility into how US ports are operating, identify key congestion issues, and ensure our nation's commerce continues to flow efficiently. The collection of basic uniform data on port performance is critical to address ongoing congestion issues that impact AAFA members and the national economy."

Trade groups now say they will push for adoption of the amendment during a House-Senate conference to negotiate a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The six-year roadmap for transportation infrastructure investments includes establishment of a national highway freight policy and creation of a $725m grant programme to jumpstart major highway and freight projects – both priorities sought by NRF and other members of the Freight Stakeholders Coalition.

Among NRF-backed amendments that failed to pass was a measure requiring the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to track port data as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the slowdown at West Coast ports that ended earlier this year.