The trucking industry has sent an appeal to the Trump administration and government leaders at all levels to help ensure America’s trucks, which carry essential goods such as food, water, medicine and fuel, can continue to deliver the basic, vital necessities critical to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its broad impact.
Several states have temporarily closed interstate rest stops, restricting access to much-needed facilities and parking spots for professional drivers.
In a March 17 letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations (ATA), wrote, “As governments consider public-health decisions to limit travel, shelter in place, close public facilities and quarantine communities, we ask that you consider trucking with these specific policies.”
• Exempt trucking services for the delivery of essential goods explicitly from restrictions. Guidelines that make clear the role of shipping necessities by truck will ensure smooth resupply and delivery.
• As many states shutter their DMV facilities, support the ability of the trucking industry to continue to provide critical services by providing alternatives for drivers who need to renew or obtain commercial drivers licensing credentials.
• Keep rest stops open. Commercial drivers have temporary relief from Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, but they must manage fatigue as they respond to this emergency, and rest stops are an irreplaceable component, along with commercial truck stops.
• Provide guidance for the health of drivers, including possible testing for COVID-19. Clear guidance on public health assets is important to our employees, just like it is for all other Americans, and our drivers are typically away from home.
“Absent policies like these, it will be more difficult to ensure that the shelves are stocked and emergency supplies reach first responders and medical personnel,” the letter concluded. “Trucking will continue to do its part in these difficult times. In this current crisis, we as for your help in supplying America, together.”
Other organizations are appealing to businesses to help truckers in their efforts to safely and efficiently deliver supplies across the nation.
The Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) criticized the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for shutting down the state’s rest areas.
“We understand this decision was likely made in an effort to limit passenger vehicle movement, interaction among travelers, and the state’s administration and supervision of these facilities during an emergency declaration,” wrote Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs in a March 17 letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers. “However, rest areas are vitally important to truckers, who at this time are being heavily relied upon to transport critical supplies across the country.”
The American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) has received reports from professional truck drivers that some shippers and receivers have refused to let drivers use on-site restrooms when picking up or delivering supplies. In response, ALAN sent a request to thousands of businesses across the nation.
“We are all in this fight together. We need our truckers on the roads, so our warehouses and stores and manufacturing can stay open and so that our communities get what they need,” wrote Kathy Fulton, executive director of ALAN. “At a time when our systems are so stretched and fragile, now more than ever we need to band together the disparate parts of the supply chain to ensure our country has the nourishment, hydration, and medical care we need.”
The message continues:
“I know these are very uncertain and scary times, but we are hearing multiple reports that shippers and receivers are refusing access to bathroom facilities for truck drivers due to fears about virus transmission. Drivers are threatening to go home. Coupled with the fact that some state rest stops are closed, the lack of access to restrooms at shipper/receiver locations is a barrier to trucking continuity.”
ALAN members are asked to use “informed compassion” and follow basic guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rather than stop all truck drivers from using the restroom.
On March 13, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration suspending the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for professional drivers who are direct assistance to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Products covered by the declaration include:
• Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
• Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for health care worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities;
• Food for emergency restocking of stores;
• Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19;
• Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes; and
• Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
This suspension of HOS regulations, while necessary in this time of worldwide emergency, puts a greater strain on professional drivers. By ensuring that truckers have access to basic amenities such as restrooms, showers, food and safe parking, businesses and governments can help the trucking industry on the “front lines” in the war against the coronavirus.