Coronavirus: NGFA wants action on driver licenses and ‘punitive’ shipping fees

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© Gettyimages/standret
© Gettyimages/standret

Related tags shipping pandemic Coronavirus driver license

The US National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), in a letter to US state governors, has tried to press home the need for officials to adopt measures to allow the issuance of new commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) during shutdowns or reduced operations of state motor vehicle offices in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It called on authorities, if they have not already done so, to create alternative online or appointment-only processes to issue new CDLs, or to issue an emergency and temporary alternative process to enable new drivers to obtain licenses, if necessary. 

“We are concerned that if driver’s license agencies continue to not issue new CDLs or limit service, trucking capacity may be inadequate to ensure continuity of operations for human and animal food supply participants,”​ said the NGFA in the communication​.

Seasonal CDLs are particularly important during the busy spring planting season because the agricultural industry hires seasonal drivers to help in the timely delivery of farm supplies to farmers and ranchers, said the organization.

“The agricultural industry depends on a steady flow of new (CDL) drivers to maintain its supply chain,”​ NGFA stressed.

Last last month, the organization along with a raft of other groups, called ​for a relaxation of certain US transportation regulations to help all parties in the food agriculture supply chain deal with the coronavirus challenge.

Shipping fees

Meanwhile, in an April 3 letter​ to the US National Economic Council director. Larry Kudlow, and US secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, the NGFA and 79 other associations representing the US food and agriculture supply chain also requested urgent engagement from Trump administration officials to ensure the continued free movement via shipping containers to international markets of critical food and agricultural products.

“Specifically, we seek your engagement with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regarding the ongoing unconscionable imposition of millions of dollars of unfair detention and demurrage penalties on US agriculture by ocean carriers and Marine Terminal Operators during the coronavirus crisis.”

Ocean carriers and terminal operators are imposing detention and demurrage charges when ocean freight containers cannot be returned or picked up within a short ‘free time’ window, even when the delay is caused by the ocean carriers or terminals themselves, the groups explained.

“These fundamentally unfair fees are frequently exorbitant in nature, even exceeding the negotiated freight rates in some cases, and render US agriculture exports less competitive in the global markets.

“The ongoing injury to US agriculture and forestry industries as a result of these unjustified penalties is very real, especially with the challenges posed by the coronavirus,”​ the groups said.

An FMC investigation, they noted, found that such detention and demurrage fees appear to be punitive measures by the ocean carriers, not an incentive to increase container flow, thus imposing unreasonable costs and significant burdens on US agriculture and forest products exporters and truckers. 

Check out our Feed Matters podcast interview​ with the NGFA.

The NGFA, established in 1896, consists of more than 1,000 grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies that operate more than 7,000 facilities and handle more than 70% of all US grains and oilseeds. Its membership includes grain elevators, feed and feed ingredient manufacturers, biofuels companies, grain and oilseed processors and millers, exporters, livestock and poultry integrators, and associated firms that provide goods and services to the nation’s grain, feed and processing industry.

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