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“In the war against the virus, American truckers are the foot soldiers who are carrying us to victory,” Trump said at the event, of which he deemed the theme “thank God for truckers.”
“The whole country is cheering you on, without you it would be impossible to keep our economy moving,” Chao said, adding the industry would play a “critical part in helping our economy recover” once the virus has subsided.
The event’s attendees included truck drivers for FedEx, DHL and UPS, as well as an executive and a driver from the American Trucking Associations.
As previously reported by FOX Business, the public attention truckers have received has been a positive for the industry – which has had some success reaching the federal government as well as state governments when it comes to easing certain regulations and restrictions.
Brian Fielkow, president of multimillion-dollar trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, told FOX Business at the governmental level some states have reversed orders to close truck stops so that drivers can access restrooms. There have also been states that have granted exclusions for commercial truck drivers to certain regulations in an effort to allow them to carry out their jobs more efficiently.
A big remaining problem is detention times. While many loading and shipping facilities are understaffed, detention times can range from as many as three to five hours, Fielkow noted, all the while drivers may not be allowed to use the restrooms or be able to access food and water.
When it comes to access to food and other basic hygiene staples on the road, Fielkow said there is more to be done at the private sector level – where exclusions can be made for professional drivers.
McDonald’s, for example, recently unveiled a new curbside pickup service for truck drivers who cannot drive their big rigs through the drive-thru.
Meanwhile, some food trucks have begun parking along routes to provide food for drivers.
Drivers need more of this type of "creativity" from the private sector, Fielkow said, in order to make sure their needs are taken care of while everyone practices social distancing and other safe behaviors.
The industry has 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.