‘Thank you’ isn’t enough for truckers struggling through pandemic

May 7, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Most people want to be shown appreciation for their hard work. An unsolicited “thank you” can go a long way.

Truck drivers have heard plenty of “thank yous” since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. As inventory at grocery stores and hospitals dwindled, people began to grasp the importance of having men and women who are willing to travel across the country delivering freight.

In April, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee orchestrated a “tweetstorm” to recognize truck drivers and others who are keeping America’s economy moving during the coronavirus pandemic. Using #ToThoseWhoKeepUsMoving, lawmakers used social media to thank truckers for their efforts during the crisis.

Earlier that month, President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao greeted truck drivers during a celebration of the trucking industry at the White House.

“At a time of widespread shutdowns, truck drivers form the lifeblood of our economy,” Trump said. “In the war against the virus, American truckers are the foot soldiers that are really carrying us to victory … I know I speak for the 330 million-plus Americans when I say, ‘Thank God for truckers.’”

OOIDA senior member Tina Peterson was one of the truck drivers honored at the White House. In an interview with Land Line, Peterson said the remarks of appreciation from President Trump and Secretary Chao were sincere and that it felt very good to hear the “thank yous.”

Many truckers would agree, I’m sure. The appreciation shown by lawmakers does count for something, and there’s no evidence to show that all of the “thank yous” were anything other than well-intended.

But we have reached the point where lawmakers need to start showing their appreciation to truck drivers through more than words. As OOIDA said in April, the appreciation must be “tangible.”

Freight rates plummeted in April. Results of a survey conducted by the OOIDA Foundation and the American Transportation Research Institute said that there were no major improvements in terms of truck parking or detention time.

OOIDA Board Member Rodney Morine told CNBC in April that many small-business trucking companies could go out of business if they don’t receive relief soon.

On May 6, OOIDA sent a letter to members of Congress to address concerns from truck drivers regarding “feeble rates” and “utter lack of transparency between brokers and motor carriers.”

OOIDA pointed out that brokers have been skirting transparency regulations for years and urged Congress to take action. The Association told Congress that brokers should be required to immediately provide an electronic copy of each transaction once the contractual service has been completed and that brokers should be prohibited from including any provisions in their contracts to waive the regulation requirements.

Taking these actions would do a lot more than saying “thank you.” It would show truck drivers that those words actually mean something. And actions like these could result in thousands of trucking companies avoiding bankruptcy.

In fairness, some tangible steps to help truckers have already been taken. The Trump administration listened to a request from OOIDA to get masks to truck drivers who are working on the frontlines of the pandemic. FMCSA and other agencies have been working to distribute about 1 million masks to truck drivers at various rest stops across the nation. FMCSA said additional steps to administer COVID-19 testing and distribute other protective items to truckers are in the works.

These concrete signs are important steps, and truck drivers need to be shown a lot of more of them.

“Thank yous” are great. But, sometimes, thanks just isn’t enough. Truckers are making huge sacrifices for America. In return, they deserve a lot more than words.

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.