Truckers are the backbone of the supply chain in so many ways. Virtually everything you have in your home at some point traveled by truck at some point before it made it into your home. As America copes with the Coronavirus outbreak that is rapidly spreading throughout the United States, America again calls on trucks to help keep it running.
For the very first time in history, a Nationwide Emergency Disaster Declaration was announced by the President, and soon after a Hours of Service suspension was approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, allowing truckers who are hauling medical equipment, supplies and much needed supplies to stores to focus on moving the freight rather than following the flawed HOS regulations imposed on them everyday.
America relies on these truckers to haul these goods to restock shelves as Americans panic buy virtually anything in fear of a long quarantine as a result of COVID-19’s outbreak. The HOS suspension allows these drivers to drive as many hours as they feel comfortable driving in an effort to get the product there as soon as they can, rather than focus on the maximum driving time normally required. America needs these drivers to be able to haul the freight, and the FMCSA sees that need and issued the waiver.
I think there is a misconception on what exactly this means for the driver who is on the road. These drivers live in their trucks, weeks at a time. They stay in their trucks, virtually all day hauling the goods to everyone in times of need. The battle traffic, horrible drivers, dangerous weather and so many other issues every day, and because they live on the road, they are forced to rely on truck stops on the side of the road for food, restrooms, laundry, coffee, social interaction and even to take a hot shower. With the growing concern over the Coronavirus, these very same truckstops are limiting some of these amenities, seemingly forgetting that truckers rely on these services in order to do their jobs.
Drivers are now expected to run long hours to assure shelves are restocked, only to find out that they can not take a break at a truck stop and have a quick sit down meal as most truck stops have closed their restaurants. Drivers are expected to run long hours, sometimes having to offload their own trucks only to find out they are not able to take a shower to clean up, as several truck stops are reporting they are no longer offering showers to drivers. Drivers are pushed to run long hours to be told at shippers they can’t use the restroom when they arrive at their destination as they are not allowed out of their truck, regardless of how bad they might have to go..
Drivers are forced to pay for parking at some locations and told they can’t park in others for no reason. Drivers who rush to Walmart to restock shelves as panicked Americans buy everything in site, can’t even park in the Walmart parking lot to catch a minute of shut-eye as one driver found out in Phoenix City, Alabama. The driver was forced to pay $600 to have his truck released, even after discussing with a Walmart manager.
In other locations drivers delivering product to be restocked have to have police escorts to prevent looters, but are unable to take a minute and east outside of their truck. It is not right and we can do better.
These drivers are the ones we rely on to assure we have enough supplies to get us through the uncertain future, but these drivers can’t rely on us to make sure they have the ability to take care of themselves. So wrong. We can do better.