OOIDA to President Trump: Take action to help truckers

March 20, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Immediate measures need to be taken to allow truck drivers to safely transport essential freight during the ongoing national emergency, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump.

OOIDA on Friday, March 20 asked the federal government to assist the nation’s truck drivers by immediately addressing issues related to parking, hours-of-service requirements, enforcement, compliance, and the “basic decency” of providing truckers with a place to use the restroom.

“Truckers are a vital component of the supply chain, hauling loads that help keep hospitals prepared, manufacturers productive and grocery stores stocked,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer wrote in the letter sent to President Trump, as well as U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen, and FHWA Administrator Nicole Nason.

“Unfortunately, our members are encountering many challenges that unnecessarily slow the movement of goods, limit the effectiveness of response efforts and jeopardize their personal safety. Steps can be taken by the federal government to immediately alleviate many of these problems, and coordination with state and local governments, as well as the business community, will help address many more.”

OOIDA implored the federal government to immediately tackle five issues to help truck drivers do their job of providing emergency supplies across the United States to address the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Keep rest areas open

FMCSA granted truck drivers, who are responding to the outbreak, regulatory relief from hours-of-service regulations when it announced a national emergency declaration on March 13.

Despite being counted on to deliver medical equipment, food, fuel and other emergency supplies across the country, Pennsylvania closed all of its rest areas on March 17. After pushback from such organizations as OOIDA, the state planned to reopen 13 of its 30 rest areas on March 19.

OOIDA said that isn’t good enough and asked the federal government to discourage states from closing rest areas and other truck parking facilities, while encouraging them to reopen any locations shuttered during the emergency.

“The top concern among our members is unquestionably the lack of adequate parking for commercial motor vehicles,” Spencer wrote. “States must also be encouraged to open weigh statins, inspection facilities and other sites for truck parking to ensure the safety of professional drivers and motorists.”

Suspend HOS requirements for all freight

OOIDA said the relief from hours-of-service rules for truck drivers hauling “essential” materials was a move in the right direction but would like to see the government go further in order to provide clarity for truckers.

FMCSA’s current declaration leaves open some room for interpretation, especially when regarding loads that are mixed with emergency supplies and general freight.

“We are concerned this confusion will only grow as more commodities are deemed essential,” Spencer wrote. “With the exception of the 10-hour mandatory rest period between loads, the federal government should lift hours-of-service requirements for all freight.”

Avoid unnecessary delays

To expedite the delivery of critical freight, OOIDA said motor carriers with satisfactory safety ratings must be allowed to bypass weigh stations if they are hauling or en route to pick up emergency supplies.

“Except in the case of imminent safety concerns or obvious defects, Level 1 and all roadside inspections must immediately be suspended,” Spencer wrote. “Delays in the delivery of critical freight due to matters unrelated to safety needlessly hamper preparedness, response and mitigation. States must be encouraged to take further steps to avoid additional unnecessary delays.”

Extend expiring medical cards and CDLs for 90 days

OOIDA requested the federal government to implement at least a 90-day extension of expiring medical cards and commercial driver’s licenses that are in good standing. The Association also asked President Trump for random drug and alcohol testing of drivers be suspended for at least 90 days or until truckers have the means to fully comply.

The Association has received numerous reports from truck drivers who have been unable to see a certified medical examiner or conduct state business during the outbreak.

“Drivers need to be certain they are operating under compliance at all times, but the suspension of many federal and state operations and closure of important facilities has made this extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many truckers,” Spencer wrote.

Provide truckers access to restrooms, coronavirus testing

Truckers must be treated with basic decency, OOIDA told President Trump.

Many truck drivers have reported that shippers and receivers have denied them access from using on-site restroom facilities.

The reports from OOIDA led to the American Logistics Aid Network asking thousands of U.S. businesses to let truck drivers use the restroom.

“This is unconscionable, and those enforcing the policy lack public decency,” Spencer wrote. “The federal government must work with the logistics community to ensure truckers have access to restrooms.

“Some businesses are claiming to limit access as a means to control the spread of the virus to their employees. These claims are both counterproductive and insulting. As the most transient community in America, truckers must have the capacity to wash their hands after handling freight, paperwork and business equipment to help contain the spread of the virus.”

OOIDA also said steps should be taken to ensure truck drivers have access to coronavirus testing, which will help prevent the spread of the virus.

The Association said these five steps will aid truck drivers in their attempt to help the nation through this crisis.

“Like your administration, truckers are working extremely hard to help the nation persevere through this unprecedented emergency,” Spencer wrote. “The U.S. Department of Transportation has already taken significant steps to facilitate the efficient movement of essential freight across the country, but additional steps are now necessary. We hope you will address these concerns and, as conditions continue to change, any future problems our members encounter.”

Mark Schremmer

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.