Truckers need protected, OOIDA’s Spencer tells CNBC

April 20, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Keeping truck drivers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to America’s economy, OOIDA President Todd Spencer said on CNBC’s “The Exchange,” on Monday, April 20. 

“The numbers that are concerned with health are growing, and we’re certain more people will be exposed and, quite likely, have the virus,” Spencer said in an interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans. “Realistically, truckers are first responders. Our whole economy runs on trucks. All of the vital things we need in the stores, they only get there by truck. Even if nothing was wrong, in three days those stores are empty. (Truckers) are critical.”

Spencer joined the show Monday afternoon to take part in a segment titled “Road to Relief.” OOIDA has been working to get the government to help truckers from health and economic standpoints as they haul essential goods across the country during the pandemic. 

“(Truckers) go everywhere,” Spencer said. “They go into the hot zones. We think there ought to be greater efforts to provide PPE (personal protective equipment), because we really want to keep them on the job, and we don’t want to get them infected.”

Seeking relief

On April 3, OOIDA sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for “urgent and immediate” action to protect truck drivers as they are the vital link in the nation’s supply chain. In the letter, OOIDA said truck drivers needed personal protective equipment, testing and access to treatment. More than two weeks later, the Association is continuing to push for efforts to protect truckers.

“If they test positive, then they need to quarantine,” Spencer said on CNBC. “But we don’t think it’s realistic that the only option to quarantine is in the truck. We think far more could be done there. And we think PPE ought to be made available to them. That has been a challenge. We understand that FEMA is stepping up to provide some of that, but we haven’t seen it yet.”

Last week, OOIDA called for “tangible” relief for truck drivers that would include:

  • Waiving the 2020 payment of the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax.
  • Including more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. 
  • Allowing trucking companies to account for additional business expenses when applying for a PPP loan, including truck payments and insurance costs. 
  • Providing more COVID-19 testing and protective equipment at weigh stations and rest areas.

Spencer said small-business trucking companies, which account for most of the motor carriers in the United States, need economic relief.

“The relief efforts have generally gone over the top of truckers,” Spencer said. “Trucking is an industry that is predominantly small businesses. Ninety-six percent of truckers work in fleets with 20 or fewer trucks. And right now, the programs they’ve created have missed them completely.”

As freight rates plunge, Spencer said truck drivers are battling to stay afloat in addition to staying healthy. 

“The rates that truckers receive for hauling the goods have pretty much been cut in half,” he said. “They’re facing a real economic crisis to be able to continue to operate, not to mention that they are actually on the front line in the battle against coronavirus.”

Truckstop.com

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.