Last month the White House honored truck drivers who continue to serve during the pandemic, calling them the “lifeblood of our economy.’’
“In the war against the virus, American truckers are the foot soldiers who are carrying us to victory,’’ President Trump said.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was also at the event and said states have been working to make accommodations for truck drivers, who have had a difficult time accessing food on the road.
“The whole country is cheering you on, without you it would be impossible to keep our economy moving,’’ Chao said, adding the industry would play a “critical part in helping our economy recover’’ once the virus has subsided.
The event’s attendees included truck drivers for FedEx, DHL and UPS, as well as an executive and a driver from the American Trucking Associations.
Brian Fielkow, president of trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, said some states have reversed orders to close truck stops so that drivers can access restrooms. There have also been states that have granted exclusions for commercial truck drivers to certain regulations in an effort to allow them to carry out their jobs more efficiently.
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Detention Times Sill a Problem
A big remaining problem is detention times, industry officials said. While many loading and shipping facilities are understaffed, detention times can range from as many as three to five hours, Fielkow said, Meanwhile, drivers may not be allowed to use the restrooms or be able to access food and water.
When it comes to access to food and other basic hygiene staples on the road, Fielkow said there is more to be done at the private sector level, where exclusions can be made for professional drivers.
McDonald’s, for example, recently unveiled a new curbside pickup service for truck drivers who cannot drive their big rigs through the drive-thru.
Meanwhile, some food trucks have begun parking along routes to provide food for drivers.
Drivers Need Creativity
Drivers need more of this type of creativity from the private sector in order to make sure their needs are taken care of while everyone practices social distancing and other safe behaviors, Fielkow said.
The industry has asked for more access to testing — specifically for drivers traveling in and out of coronavirus hotspots.
“Right now professional drivers are busting their butts to care for the nation,’’ said Todd Spencer, president of Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), said in a statement. “Their hard work and personal sacrifice should not include their health or even their lives if at all possible or preventable. Once word spreads that drivers are testing positive, we could very well see a tremendous reduction in drivers willing to risk everything for the rest of us.’’
If there were to be negative repercussions within the industry, there could be problems with the nation’s supply chain, Spencer said.
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