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April 27 2020

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April 27 2020 | The Journal of Commerce 23 Commentary A railroad crew somewhere in the United States has reached the end of its federally mandated work hours. The crew members stop the train and get off, but there are no replacements in sight. The relief crew has been prevented from working by local authorities enforcing a strict stay-at- home mandate. The train — and the freight it carries — remain stopped through the night and part of the next day as the situation is sorted out. SCENARIOS SIMILAR TO this are already playing out across the country, affecting transportation and logistics workers of all kinds as states and municipalities implement stringent social distancing measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Decisions about personal movement are often being made locally, in circumstances that range from confusing to frightening, endangering the efficient flow of needed supplies across the country. National policy makers have provided some broad guidance. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has designated what it considers essential workforces for critical infrastructure. But many questions have been left unan- swered, and "who needs to move" when it comes to the supply chain is far from clear. In part, this is because the supply chain requires many functions and activities that may not be easy for local authorities to define as essential, but which are essential nonetheless. The US needs a set of clear and unambiguous movement standards for the national freight transportation and logistics network. It is a matter of both national security and economic necessity that the flow of goods to end-markets is preserved. In turn, this requires identifying in detail the critical roles required for the transpor- tation system to function. Meeting needs efficiently The supply chain is a hierarchy of multimodal and integrated func- tions that must all be preserved and protected together from disruption. Bottlenecking or eliminating any link in the chain will impact the flow of goods throughout the whole system. To that end, we can identify the critical freight transportation and logistics functions and roles that should be part of a detailed national standard, across all modes, for ship- pers of all sizes, and for both domestic and international shipments. All of the entities involved are critical to keeping supplies flowing. Makers — such as manufacturers, packagers, and distributors — produce and direct goods through the trans- portation system. Movers — such as ports, motor carriers, railroads, and third-party logistics providers — physically move or coordinate the movement of goods. And mobilizers — from hotels and fueling stations to spare parts makers and repair services — provide the support services nec- essary to keep the system functioning. According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, nearly 20 million tons of goods are projected to move across the country this year. Hundreds, even thousands of companies in each of the categories shown make up the supply chain network for this freight. With " movers" alone employing more than 3 million people, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is critical to identify workers on-site and on the move, to allow these enterprises to continue to operate safely, without undue restrictions. Two steps are required at the national level to ensure that freight mobility across the network is unimpeded: • Outlining standard, practical guidelines that local jurisdictions and enforcement can use to deter- mine what mobility restrictions apply to essential functions; and • Developing clear definitions that companies and individuals can use to self-identify and confirm quickly and definitively that their mobility is necessary to support the supply chain. Companies should, of course, create work-from-home capabilities wherever possible. But many supply chain functions require workers to be on site or in transit. These work- ers need backing and documentation to confirm that they must be mobile or away from home if questioned by local authorities. A set of national standards — either voluntarily adopted by all jurisdictions, or recommended or even mandated at the federal level — is an imperative that cannot be ignored. Supply chain participants are already encountering a prolif- eration of non-standard protocols as they move freight across the country, leading to undue complex- ity, stress, and delays. A national protocol for transportation and logistics-essential functions across the supply chain would offer clarity to states, municipalities, and com- panies seeking a way forward in this increasingly difficult environment, while ensuring that essential goods get to the people who need them as quickly as possible. JOC email: 'Essential' identification Adriene Bailey Nationwide movement standards for freight transportation are a matter of both national security and economic necessity.

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