SOCIAL HILL, Ark. — Truckers stopping at Arkansas’ Social Hill rest area along Interstate 40 received free protective masks Thursday, April 30. The masks were distributed by officers from the Arkansas Highway Police division of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
“We have individuals from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Arkansas Highway Police and the Arkansas Trucking Association all out here trying to get PPE (personal protective equipment) to commercial truck drivers, making sure that they have masks, hand sanitizer and things that they need to keep them healthy while they’re out working,” said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association.
The Arkansas Highway Police received protective masks to distribute to truck drivers as part of a coordinated effort by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide one million masks to truckers around the nation.
“We’re part of a massive effort to issue right at one million masks to commercial truck drivers traveling the nation’s highways. Last Friday Arkansas Highway Police received 100,000 of the one million masks. We’ve started handing them out at all of our weigh station facilities as well as sites such as this rest area,” said Jay Thompson, chief of the Arkansas Highway Police. “We’ve issued probably close to 30,000 of them.”
Randy Ort, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said mask-distribution efforts in the state will be ongoing.
“We’re handing out these masks at all weigh stations around the state,” he said. “We’re not really planning events. It’s about getting the truckers the masks that they need. I think as we’ve all learned through this event, it’s very important to keep our economy going. Yes, public health is extremely important, but it’s also important to keep the economy going. And one of the biggest parts to keeping the economy going is keeping commerce moving. We at ArDOT are very happy to be doing our part to keep that part of the economy going.”
In another effort to help the nation’s truck drivers as they deliver essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis, the state’s DOT granted permits to food-truck operators to provide food for truckers at some Arkansas rest areas.
“We are happy to be a part of this effort to support the commercial transportation industry in Arkansas,” said Lorie Tudor, director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. “This emergency has truly opened the eyes of many about how important the role of a truck driver is to this country.”
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.