We’ve been recognizing the workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic such as health care workers, grocery store clerks and custodians.
On Thursday, the White House recognized another industry
working hard to keep the economy moving – literally. Truck drivers and industry
leaders were honored with a ceremonial key for their work.
“At a time of widespread shutdowns, truck drivers form the
lifeblood of our economy,” said President Donald Trump during a ceremony
celebrating truck drivers on the South Lawn. “For days, and sometimes weeks on
end, truck drivers leave their homes and deliver supplies that American
families need and count on during this national crisis and at all other
times. They’re always there. Their routes connect every farm, hospital,
manufacturer, business, and community in the country.”
The essential items like food and medicine wouldn’t be
sitting in your home if it weren’t for the 3.5 million truck drivers across the
President Trump said truckers move over 70% of all freight in the United States, over 10 million tons every single year.
Since the pandemic started, those truck drivers have left
the safety and security of their own homes to keep America’s supplies moving, including
some we spoke to who are making routes across Texas and the South.
“I go back-and-forth between Houston and Oklahoma so I can
tell the difference with the lack of cars on the freeway now,” said Roderick Crow,
Crow said he is moving grocery items and paper products,
instilling a sense of purpose during this difficult time.
“It’s a sense of pride knowing that you can feed your family
and feed other folks’ family. That’s what the best thing about it is,” he said.
Truck driver Irvinie Lacuesta runs routes across the South and throughout Texas. He most recently hauled steel and lumber to help keep the construction industry going. His favorite part about the new normal is less traffic on the roads.
“The traffic? I love it, no rush hour! We don’t have to deal
with that anymore!” he said.
Truck drivers get paid by mile, so their deliveries much faster and efficient now.
But he said he misses the comradery he felt with other truck
drivers on the road. Restrictions are preventing truck drivers from mingling,
dining in or using bathrooms and showers at some locations.
“We don’t talk anymore. We just go to the bathroom and go
back to our truck. That’s it, we don’t engage anymore,” he said.
The American Trucking Associations told NBC 5 when the pandemic began, they worked with the federal government to ease up several regulations that might slow down shipments, such as limits on how long truckers can drive.
“We needed to make sure that supply chain wasn’t interrupted,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy at the ATA. “Ensuring the drivers could continue to deliver and giving them more flexibility to do so was important.”
ATA worked with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which issued
an emergency declaration to exempt many of these regulations and rules that
govern what drivers can and cannot do.
“It was specific, it wasn’t a blanket
free-for-all. It was specific to those engaged in direct supporting and
ensuring the supply chain wasn’t compromised,” said Horvath.“The
supply chain is working. The drivers are doing their jobs. More so now than ever
have they got to get those shelves stocked all the time“
Some companies are shifting their business model and
focusing on moving essential supplies.
“The neat thing that we’re seeing is that companies are
adapting to this crisis. We’re seeing some companies that normally do
deliveries specifically for restaurants, or high-end restaurants — a lot of
these restaurants have stopped operations throughout this ordeal so the
trucking companies have changed their business model to make deliveries to
other types of operations,” said Horvath.
Horvath said he is hearing of some places where truck
drivers are not allowed to use bathrooms or showers, as well as wait times at
supply warehouses increasing — adding to the difficulty of the job. However,
he said the ATA is working with companies to get personal protection equipment
to truck drivers and to create pick up locations for drivers to stock up or
refill on safety items.
Horvath also shared the community support for truck drivers
across the country. Truck stops and law enforcement at inspection stations are
surprising truck drivers with free lunches to keep them fueled up.
“It’s a shame it’s taken a pandemic like this to really show
the deserved spotlight on the industry,” he said. “The men and women of the
trucking industry have a difficult job on a normal day, let alone in the midst
of a pandemic were experiencing now.”
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