Newsroom Notes: While a new administration arrives, many questions will remain

With most everyone still recovering from election malaise, it’s time to think about what may come next, specifically in the form of a Biden Administration as it relates to all things logistics.

There will be a lot to sort through, and a lot of ground will be covered by the Biden transition team between now and then; but given current events, there could very well be a pecking order as we get more clarity on priorities and position in the coming weeks and months.

One thing that’s clear is that now a new, comprehensive federal surface transportation authorization is needed. Lost in the shuffle of the election’s home stretch was a one-year continuing resolution for the current authorization, known as the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which was signed into law near the end of President Obama’s second term.

Since that time, both sides of the aisle, in the form of the White House, Congress, the Senate and respective Congressional committees, have made inroads on what they felt were the best paths forward, but none truly ever got out of the initial phases and got rolling.

That needs to change, and quite frankly has needed to change for quite some. Will we get there at some point over the next four years? Well, it’s far too early to tell, but it’s pretty clear that there will be a big focus on a new long-term transportation infrastructure authorization. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business-focused groups are surely going to do whatever they can to get those in power to take definitive action on it.

Another topic that’s going to be closely watched is the state of global trade and tariffs between the United States and its allies and adversaries. It’s clear that tariffs, specifically the Section 301 tariffs implemented by President Trump on China, had a notable impact on freight flows, as well as manufacturing and how many companies started to reconsider their nearshoring and outsourcing strategies.

For freight flows, it led to a “pull-forward,” with companies moving large quantities of goods into the United States earlier than normal in order to avoid being “tariffed” or “taxed.” Either way, it was a game changer, but with a new president coming in, it remains to be seen just exactly how, or in what ways, the tariff game will continue.

There are others, too, including the environment, and, by extension, energy, including fossil fuel production and fracking, wind and solar, as well as electric- and natural gas-powered vehicles.

And don’t forget about the record numbers of jobs lost during the pandemic. Yes, some have come back, but more work needs to be done to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

Maybe parts of the answer relate to a big, new infrastructure deal, as well as the need for more truck drivers, which readers of this column know is not a new problem by any stretch. These are just a few things we’ll be watching over the course of what we hope will be a much more uplifting and positive 2021.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman