OOIDA to Sen. Wicker: ‘no place’ for drivers to fight COVID-19 on the road

May 15, 2020

Greg Grisolano

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The leader of the Senate committee tasked with providing oversight of the transportation industry had more questions about how the coronavirus pandemic was impacting truck drivers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association weighed in.

Earlier this month, Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, reached out to the trucking industry – including OOIDA – for feedback on how it was being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wicker requested the industry’s feedback on four key areas:

  • What effects have your members seen from COVID-19 on our transportation networks and supply chains, and how have they responded to such impacts?
  • What are your expectations for how freight transportation networks or the supply chain may continue to be affected in the near term? What impacts do you anticipate long term?
  • How have critical infrastructure employees been affected during the COVID-19 crisis while performing their duties, and what steps have your members taken to protect them?
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation has a number of authorities that can be used to respond to extraordinary and unanticipated events. How has the use of these authorities affected your members during the COVID-19 crisis and are additional authorities needed to further support the transportation sector in unforeseen circumstances?

In a letter to Wicker sent Friday, May 15, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said truck drivers “have sacrificed their own wellbeing to keep our country healthy, safe and productive” and that drivers “continue working under the constant risk of infection.”

“Since truckers often live out of their cabs on the road for days at a time, it is difficult for them to access healthcare and even more challenging to find coronavirus testing,” he wrote. “To date, we have not been successful in finding a centralized resource to connect truckers with testing. Even worse, if they experience symptoms or contract COVID-19 while completing a shipment, they have no place to properly isolate.

“There is simply no way for a driver to combat this illness while on the road,” Spencer wrote.

Read the full letter sent to Sen. Wicker here.

Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

In addition to this, Spencer said truckers are encountering numerous difficulties throughout the transportation network – including a lack of adequate parking, accessing basic needs like food and restrooms, and excessive detention time. Spencer also singled out states such as Utah and New Mexico, which have considered quarantine requirements that would have hampered transportation networks and intruded on truckers’ privacy.

Spencer also highlighted the struggles truckers face due to continued low freight rates and the continuing uncertainty of when – or even if – the markets will recover. He said the Association expects that many drivers will continue to face economic hardship, even as the economy slowly restarts. He urged lawmakers to reject efforts, like the DRIVE-Safe Act, that would unnecessarily increase the number of drivers in our industry.

“Given the significant number of truckers who have already lost their jobs, we expect there will be many drivers prepared to work as economic activity increases and opportunities return,” he wrote. “Now, more than ever, there is certainly no shortage of drivers.”

The comments echo those made in a letter the Association sent on May 13 to leadership on Capitol Hill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.