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As the trucking industry hauls essential freight amid a widespread coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., it is fighting for regulatory aid to help offset the hurdles drivers are facing while moving goods across the country.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents 160,000 small-business truckers and professional drivers, highlighted some reforms in a letter to Congress on Monday that would make it easier for drivers to do their jobs during the current national crisis – and even after the coronavirus outbreak has subsided.
Among them are expanded parking, relief from hours-of-service requirements – which limit how many hours drivers can spend on the road – as well as improved detention times through incentivizing shippers and receivers to load and unload freight more efficiently. In addition, the group called for the potential implementation of hazard pay.
“While trucking is a demanding profession under normal circumstances, COVID-19 is testing even the most experienced drivers,” the letter read. “Finding a place to park, eat, shower, and use the restroom has proven to be exceptionally difficult for our members. To some extent, we understand why conditions have been more challenging during this time. However, we shouldn’t assume these problems will simply evaporate when the crisis is over, because they have long been a part of drivers’ daily struggles.”
The full letter can be viewed here.
The industry has been successful in obtaining some temporary regulatory relief so drivers can haul essential freight – everything from medical supplies to groceries – more quickly. However, it also wants to ensure that it maintains the ability to do its job proficiently once the environment begins to normalize.
“Suddenly people realize that every single thing in every single store in Amazon and Walmart some time travels by truck, and if you slow that down you’re going to kill the economy very quickly,” John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems, told FOX Business.
In a separate letter sent to the White House over the weekend, the industry asked for more access to testing – specifically for drivers traveling in and out of coronavirus hotspots.
“Right now professional drivers are busting their butts to care for the nation,” Todd Spencer, president and CEO of OOIDA, said in a statement. “Their hard work and personal sacrifice should not include their health or even their lives if at all possible or preventable. Once word spreads that drivers are testing positive, we could very well see a tremendous reduction in drivers willing to risk everything for the rest of us.”
If there were to be negative repercussions within the industry, Spencer warns that there could be problems with the nation’s supply chain.
The trucking industry has maintained regular contact with the federal government and lawmakers throughout the coronavirus outbreak. As previously reported by FOX Business, OOIDA penned a letter last month regarding a host of other obstacles its drivers were encountering – including a lack of places to get food on the road as well as limited access to restrooms and parking.