OOIDA blasts Congress for forgetting truckers in $900B relief package

December 23, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said lawmakers’ failure to help small-business truckers in its $900 billion pandemic relief package is nothing short of “shameful.”

Congress passed the package, which includes a $1.4 trillion “catchall spending bill,” and the measure is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump in the coming days.

As part of the package, $45 billion goes to the transportation industry, including $14 billion for transit; $1 billion for Amtrak; $2 billion for private motor coaches, school buses and ferry industry; $10 billion for state highways; $15 billion for airline payroll support; $1 billion for airline contractor payrolls; and $2 billion for airport and airport concessionaires.

 In a letter to members of Congress sent on Wednesday, Dec. 23, OOIDA called out lawmakers for failing to remember the men and women who have been at the frontlines of the pandemic, keeping the grocery stores stocked and delivering essential medical items including the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Many of you spent 2020 praising truckers, even referring to them as heroes and essential to our way of life,” OOIDA wrote in the letter signed by Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh. “We agree with that completely, but your actions do not even remotely reflect your words.

“This is shameful. Some of these industries already received tens of billions of dollars earlier this year. To be clear, small-business truckers do not want a handout, but we are angered because small-business trucking faced an existential threat this year as well, especially when freight rates fell off a cliff in the spring and early summer.”

OOIDA said it is possible that tens of thousands of motor carriers will have to go out of business and that Congress had done “almost nothing” to help.

“While the Paycheck Protection Program did provide some relief to the trucking industry, we heard from far too many small-business truckers who were unable to get a loan from the program,” OOIDA wrote. “Many owner-operators were ineligible because of the way that loan eligibility was calculated. In other words, it was good for those fortunate enough to receive it but left those who were ineligible even further behind.”

OOIDA said lawmakers missed countless opportunities to help small-business truckers during this crisis.

“You could have suspended the federal fuel tax, or the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, or even the Unified Carrier Registration tax to help truckers’ cash flow,” the Association wrote. “Or you could have tossed in a few hundred million dollars for truck parking projects, so more truckers would have a safe place to park while they work long hours.

“And how did you respond? By providing tens of billions of dollars to virtually every other major mode of transportation except the one mode that literally drives our economy.”

Making matters worse, OOIDA pointed out that House earlier this year voted to increase motor carriers’ insurance requirements by 167%.

“Let that sink in a moment. The House voted to dramatically increase the insurance costs of small-business truckers during a historic economic crisis so their trial lawyer friends could bring home bigger payouts when suing blue-collar workers,” OOIDA wrote. “Is this how out of touch you’ve become?”

The Association challenged lawmakers to do more for truckers in 2021.

“There are only a few lawmakers who can legitimately claim they support small-business truckers. You know who you are, and we appreciate everything you have done. We hope the rest of you will take some time to meet with drivers, learn about issues that are important to them, and perhaps even find a way to help, especially when COVID is no longer an issue.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.