Roughly 50 dealers affiliated with the American Building Materials Alliance (ABMA) promoted a set of key requests to U.S. Senate and House members and staff March 23 during the group's visit to Capitol Hill.
ABMA is an alliance of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association and the Construction Suppliers Association as well as two lumber and building supply groups. It was created in 2021 to advance, shape, and influence policy in all branches of government.
At their 50 meetings in Congressional offices, prominent places were given to worker shortage and employee development concerns, particularly involving trucking. One proposed solution was support for H.R. 471, the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking Act. It contains a variety of initiatives designed to encourage more people to get a commercial driver's license and become a truck driver.
A similar measure endorsed by ABMA called the Strengthen Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Assistance Act would give certain existing commercial truck drivers a tax credit of $7,500 every year, while new truck drivers or those enrolled in a registered trucking apprenticeship would get a $10,000 refundable tax credit. Unlike other measures, this one already has bipartisan support.
Taxes also figured in ABMA's call to reinstate the Bonus Depreciation Tax Credit to 100%. This credit was enacted in 2017. With it, a company could write off for tax purposes the entire cost of new equipment in the year it was purchased. But starting in 2023, the tax credit began being phased out, dropping to an 80% credit this year and falling to zero by 2027. House Republicans want a 100% write-off again and are expected to include this measure in an omnibus tax package later this year, ABMA staffers said.
While training plays a role in the two trucking bills, it's the main theme in the ABMA-promoted Employer-Directed Skills Act. This measure would make several changes that let the employer determine the skills their workforce needs and then create ways for workers to get access to skills-developing courses. The act builds on a 2014 act that already provides career services and skills-building opportunities, but isn't doing enough to fill in-demand jobs, ABMA says.
The fifth request doesn't involve legislation but rather a letter. ABMA wants senators to join Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, as co-signers of a letter urging the U.S. Trade Representative to make ratification of a new Softwood Lumber Agreement a priority. The last such agreement expired in 2015. "A new agreement forged with Canada would serve as a stabilizing influence within the housing, construction, and building materials sectors," the letter says.