Recent federal legislation includes substantial funding that could benefit the Lehigh Valley and the development of more sustainable vehicles, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said in a visit to the Mack Trucks assembly plant in Macungie on Friday.
With the Inflation Reduction Act set to pass the U.S. House of Representatives, and the CHIPS and Science Act recently signed into law, August has been a big month for federal legislation.
Both bills have billions of dollars of government investment into technology research and development, and incentives for sustainability.
“These manufacturing incentives will help alleviate inflation, will reduce the risk of future price shocks by bringing down the cost of clean energy, and bring down the cost of clean vehicles in relieving supply chain bottlenecks,” Casey said.
During Casey’s visit, Mack representatives showed off their new LR Electric trash-collection truck. They said that with heavy duty electric trucks in their infancy, government assistance is needed to get such vehicles developed and onto the streets.
The CHIPS and Science Act allocates $53 billion to the domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips in the face of shortages and reliance on foreign imports.
Mack representatives say heavy duty trucks such as the LR Electric can require up to 1,500 semiconductor chips per truck, controlling aspects of key safety and control functions.
Semiconductor chips also play a role in countless other technologies, such as appliances and computers.
Scott Wolf, president of United Auto Workers Local 677, said at the event that supply chain issues and limited chip supply have placed challenges on the trucking industry and its workers.
“This is slowing production and delivery times, and because of unscheduled downtime, reducing workers wages,” Wolf said.
Jonathan Miller, senior vice president of public affairs for Mack’s parent company, Volvo, said the investments are critical for supporting its operations.
“Availability of these chips significantly impacts the ability to manufacture,” Miller said, “We need to increase domestic production of critical infrastructure components like semiconductor chips, and the CHIPS Act will help us accomplish just that.”
He said the company is optimistic about more sustainable vehicles such as the LR Electric, as well as what it means for those in the region.
“We’re very excited and believe that this is the future for the classic trucking industry,” Miller said. “We’re very positive about the job outlook in the Lehigh Valley. We’ve been producing here since 1976, and the future looks bright.”
Miller said the type of truck shown at the event is just the first of Mack’s efforts into a zero-emission platform of trucks, and federal tax credits, the increase of semiconductor production and construction of charging infrastructure will be big for the future of vehicles like it.
Sen. Casey said the issue is important not just for the economy, but also national security so that the United States, rather than an economic rival such as China, has control over production.
“It’s a big mistake if you don’t make these investments,” Casey said. “When it comes to research and development, the federal government has to be a big player, a bigger player here, or we’re going to lose to China. Simple as that.
“I think what’s done here in the Lehigh Valley at this facility is emblematic of the future of this region, but also emblematic of the future of America. The future of our economy [and] the future of our national security, is at stake when we talk about these issues.
“So we’re not only going to be investing in that clean energy future, we’re also going to be investing in good paying union jobs.”