RILA welcomes introduction of port metrics bill

RILA welcomes introduction of port metrics bill

Jun 26, 2015

ArlingtonIn a letter sent Wednesday, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) applauded Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) for introducing legislation that would institute universal port performance standards and a formalized reporting structure for capturing data on true operational capacities of U.S. ports.

“Retailers’ supply chain operations are highly dependent on the functionality and efficiency of our U.S. ports,” said Kelly Kolb, vice president for government affairs. “Establishing a means to collect port performance data and accurately measure productivity ensures retailers can adjust their operations in the face of congestion issues and is an important step in stabilizing our transportation system for all industries.”

The Port Transparency Act (S. 1298) would direct the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) to work with numerous other entities, including port authorities, to obtain applicable and fruitful port performance measures. The bill also mandates a reporting requirement before, during, and after the expiration of port labor contracts that will facilitate key federal government agencies’ visibility into current conditions of port operations and ensure said operations continue to perform at appropriate levels.

The legislation is scheduled to be marked up in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today.

Full letter below.

RILA is the trade association of the world's largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution center.

June 24, 2015

The Honorable John Thune
Chairman
Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Thune:

On behalf of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), I write to express our strong support for S. 1298, the Port Transparency Act. We applaud your efforts to procure additional insight into the functionality of our nation’s ports. Because the ports play such a critical role in the national supply chain, RILA believes that instituting universal port performance standards and a formalized reporting structure built upon reliable data is a great first step toward understanding the true operational capacities of U.S. ports.

By way of background, RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.

RILA’s membership consists of some of the largest users within the global supply chain that rely on a stable and efficient transportation system every day of the year. While retailers have maximized the efficiency of moving goods throughout their supply chains, their productivity and efficacy is inherently tied to the overall performance of our ports. Therefore, when faced with such dire circumstances as the most recent West Coast port labor negotiations, retailers must scramble to develop emergency contingency plans that redirect their inventory to other, fully functional ports, which further delays the distribution process. Any slowdown, work stoppage, or other port disruption not only impacts our members’ entire supply chain operations, but also takes a significant toll on the U.S. economy in general.

Efforts to address and study these issues have been compounded by the overall lack of national port productivity standards and port operations data. While the particular issues at each American port may vary, one universal set of data points would be extremely helpful in efforts to assess the ramifications of such costly port disruptions. Comparable performance data from other components of the supply chain, including freight rail movements and highways, have long been collected over time, thus establishing an aggregated series of metrics that will educate future highway and other transportation system actions and decisions. For instance, the “Condition and Performance” report issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides relevant metrics that prove valuable in gauging the physical conditions, operational performances, and financing mechanisms of certain aspects of our nation’s supply chain. However, ports have not historically been required to compile a common set of standardized metrics that are collected and evaluated on a consistent basis.

The retail industry understands that stability, efficiency, and productivity of our complex transportation system begins with appropriate measurements and sound data. As such, the legislation directs the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) to work directly with numerous other entities, including port authorities, to obtain applicable and fruitful port performance measures. These formalized, annual reports would further bolster the quality and quantity of port performance data, while also helping facilitate efforts to develop a national freight plan and a dedicated funding program for the multi-modal freight system.

Most importantly, the bill mandates a reporting requirement before, during, and after the expiration of port labor contracts that will facilitate key federal government agencies’ visibility into current conditions of port operations and ensure that said operations continue to perform at appropriate levels. While RILA recognizes the sensitive nature of the collective bargaining process, the most recent West Coast negotiations demonstrate the multitude of vulnerabilities retailers face when encountered by such severe circumstances. However, with the ability to truly calculate port performance measurements, retailers will be able to adjust accordingly to future congestion issues.

We thank you for introducing the Port Transparency Act. It represents an important first step in acquiring port performance metrics that will facilitate our understanding of port disruptions, help address growing congestion concerns, as well as mitigate damage caused by future labor disputes that have so drastically affected our nation’s ports in recent years. We look forward to working with you further on this important issue. Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me at (703) 600–2064 or kelly.kolb@rila.org.

Sincerely, 

Kelly Kolb
Vice President, Government Affairs