All Talk or a Reality – Trump’s Crumbling Plans for Infrastructure

While President Donald J. Trump is still expressing confidence in his infrastructure funding plan, gaining bipartisan support during the political climate that is tumultuous can be difficult. However, we’ve seen just how well the presidential confidence has carried other projects such as overhauling health care, changing immigration laws and tax reforms for the middle class. Despite his outward projections and confidence, the cracks in his plan are beginning to show, and we’re left wondering if anything regarding U.S. infrastructure will actually be done this year.

“Trump has scrapped plans for an infrastructure advisory council after two similar panels were disbanded amid backlash to Trump from corporate America,” says John Schulz of Logistics Management. “The President’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was to have advised Trump on the what, when and how of how to improve this nation’s roads and bridges, has been scrapped,” he added.

there is no denying that the need for a robust infrastructure policy is there

While any action has yet to be taken by the government, there is no denying that the need for a robust infrastructure policy is there, and growing. According to a recent Census Bureau report, government spending on public works is at an all time low, about 1.4 percent of the U.S. GDP for the second quarter.

“Ken Simonson, former chief economist for the American Trucking Associations and now with a similar post at Associated General Contractors of America, recently told the New York Times that many states were overwhelmed by past-due infrastructure needs. For example, Illinois recently suspended work on 900 projects because of monetary restraints,” Schulz added.

Unfortunately, despite how desperately U.S. infrastructure needs attention, Administration officials have said the infrastructure plans will be pushed back to the end of the year.

If we’re lucky…

Trump’s Proposed Plan for Infrastructure

So what exactly would this plan entail, were it to come to fruition? Well, the proposal seems rather promising, if it weren’t rather lacking in details or substance. Here’s how Trump decided to start Infrastructure Week this year.

“To kick off the festivities, the president on Monday pushed his plan to privatize air-traffic control. And on Wednesday, he touted his broader infrastructure spending plan. The basic idea of this plan is that the government will spend $200 billion, using tax breaks to incentivize private business to, in turn, spend more money on infrastructure projects. Altogether, with state and local contributions as well, spending would total $1 trillion. The administration also said that it would cut regulations to help the government “get out of the way” of building projects,” according to NPR.

This wouldn’t have been such a problem if there was anything more to it than this, but the White House and the president haven’t exactly been forthcoming with anything more substantial.

Inherent Implementation Issues

The lack of details notwithstanding, there’s also some issues with the plan that can’t simply be fixed by throwing money at it. As Mike Rowe, a guru for all things blue collar, points out, the U.S. doesn’t exactly have a willing and able labor force on standby to handle the work, even if it has the funding.

“There’s a tendency to talk about job creation as if there’s a giant trained workforce standing by, waiting to fill jobs that get created,” Rowe said in an interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press.

our country does have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship with regard to the shovel.

“I wrote to the last president modestly, right after his inauguration,” he said, “not long after my foundation started just to say, ‘look the idea that 3 million shovel ready jobs are going to be created sounds great, but from what I’ve seen our country does have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship with regard to the shovel.”

“So before we say poof, here are the jobs,” he added, “we need to talk about the aspirational element and the practical reality of whether anybody is standing by to do the work.”

“Today I’m still saying the same thing,” Rowe explained, “you know if you’re gonna throw a trillion dollars into infrastructure, it kinda presupposes the idea that you’ve got a trained workforce standing by to do those jobs.”

“We don’t,” he concluded.

“And that to me,” he added, “is the most interesting disconnect in the whole dialogue.”

What does this mean for Logistics?

In terms of physical logistics, Trump’s plan comes as a bit of a mixed bag. While we’re still waiting to hear what they actually have in mind for the new policy, what the Trump administration did offer us was a fast tracking process for infrastructure projects.

“On 15 August, President Trump signed an executive order aiming to curtail the time it takes to get an infrastructure project approved and delivered,” says The Loadstar.

“The Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects order allows an administration to develop a scorecard that tracks progress on a quarterly basis. Projects that miss key milestones will automatically spark senior agency officials’ attention,” LoadStar added.

we might see more projects getting jammed up due to the very thing it’s trying to fix.

So on one hand, much of the bureaucracy and red tape gets cut which means projects can get the green light much faster. On the other hand, we might see more projects getting jammed up due to the very thing it’s trying to fix.

“While this is good for jump-starting shelved infrastructure projects around the country, it will likely lead to a nightmare of logistics planning,” warned Colin D’Abreo, CEO of forwarder KOG Transport.

“Many projects, such as strengthening/replacing entire, or parts of, bridges, for example, require large components. This will lead to bottlenecks in the inland transport permitting sectors, leading to delays in the projects,” he added.

In addition to the potential bottleneck for major construction projects, this new policy would only affect infrastructure projects that occur on federally managed roadways. If a project would have to utilize city or state roads, it’s still subject to permits by respective authorities.

So will we see anything substantive from the Trump Administration regarding the  infrastructure support our country needs? As it stands, only time will tell.