OOIDA’s Pugh to Congress: Truckers need access to hot meals

February 9, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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As part of his testimony in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh emphasized the importance of truck drivers being able to find a hot meal and a place to use the restroom.

Pugh testified on Thursday, Feb. 4 at a four-hour virtual hearing titled “Protecting Transportation Workers and Passengers from COVID: Gaps in Safety, Lessons Learned, and Next Steps.”

While much of the hearing focused on all aspects of the transportation industry and keeping workers safe during the pandemic, Pugh reminded lawmakers of the challenges that truck drivers face to do something as simple as sitting down and enjoying a well-balanced meal.

“It’s very important,” Pugh said. “I hate to say it’s life and death … but when you’re riding around in a freaking box that’s 6 by 6 or something and spend all of your time in there, it’s nice to be able to get out and go in somewhere and wash your hands and be able to sit down in something that doesn’t move and be able to get a good square meal.”

Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., also called attention to the problem at the hearing and underscored the importance of finding the correct balance between keeping everyone safe during a pandemic while still providing truckers essential services.

“I agree that we must protect workers from COVID by ensuring that they have proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and proper policies in place to make sure they are safe,” Stauber said. “But protecting workers from COVID not only means protecting them from the virus. It also means protecting their jobs and their ability to make a living.”

Challenges that OOIDA sees

The job of a truck driver was especially difficult during the beginning of the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders left few places to eat and some shipper and receiver facilities denied truckers the use of their restrooms.

“Some businesses claimed that limiting access was a way to control the spread of the virus to their employees,” Pugh said. “These policies were counterproductive. As the most transient community in America, truckers must have the ability to wash their hands after handling freight, paperwork, and business equipment to help combat the spread of the virus. During any future public health crisis, Congress must work with the logistics community to ensure that truckers have access to restrooms.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been supportive of the Federal Highway Administration’s decision to let states allow food trucks to operate at highway rest areas. However, OOIDA has been disappointed to see that many states haven’t given the go-ahead.

“Unfortunately, very few states embraced this solution,” Pugh said. “As COVID cases surged across the country this fall and states renewed or expanded dining restrictions, truckers against found themselves struggling to find warm, quality meals while on the road.

“Moving forward, we encourage Congress to not only allow states greater flexibility in permitting food trucks at rest areas during crises but to expand daily access to hard-working truckers by reversing the federal ban on the commercialization of rest areas.” LL

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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.