About 80 people attended the June 16 video session, which covered COVID-19 related hours of service exemptions, trade disruptions and other topics.
Moore, United Fresh Supply Chain Logistics Council chairman and vice president of sales for the Midwest region for Tom Lange Co., began the session with news of the administration’s infrastructure package, which media reports say will include funds for roads and bridges.
John Hollay, senior director of government relations for United Fresh and moderator of the session, said an the infrastructure plan could find bipartisan support.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “We have pushed for a number of years for infrastructure reform,” he said.
A pandemic-related hours of service exemption for fresh produce, other food and items deemed essential, first granted on March 12, recently expired, Hollay said. Hours of service exemptions for transporting livestock was extended for another month.
“In working with groups like the Agricultural Transportation Coalition we were able to get that policy extended on hours of service far longer than what anyone in industry expected,” Hollay said.
“We are obviously disappointed by (the end of the exemption) and it has been something that we have been pushing back on as a coalition and as an industry,” he said.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials have said the produce industry is not facing the same challenges as the livestock sector, Hollay said.
“We were able to get produce extended three times, and that was not easy by any means, and we are going to push the argument that we think it should be extended,” he said.
Moore said one positive development for the industry was the indefinite postponement of international road check, an enforcement initiative of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Originally scheduled for May 5-7, the initiative usually results in higher truck rates as many truck owners choose to park their rigs for a week rather than be subjected to strict enforcement.
The transportation discussion also covered bottlenecks in trade, including delays in the inspections of Mexican grapes because of staff limitations related to the COVID-19 virus.