While government officials and health organizations do everything in their power to combat the spread of COVID-19, the great American truckers are keeping the supply lines open.
Early response to the pandemic caused runs at grocery stores never seen before in our lifetime. As shelves went bare and everyday people feared the supply chain would be severed, the men and women who haul goods and materials stepped up, big league.
“Over the past week, Americans have rushed to stock up on goods as they prepare to hunker down to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We’ve watched schools, businesses, major sports, and other cultural pillars come to a complete stop as personal health and well-being take top priority,” the American Trucking Association stated in the wake of the crisis. “But one thing that won’t stop: Trucking.”
Despite the run on canned goods and, somewhat strangely, toilet paper, 18-wheelers have been lined up outside warehouses and manufacturers ready to haul to every community. Concerned citizens are already taking a breath of relief — to some degree — because resources have been replenished, and truckers are adapting and overcoming to impediments.
In recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation had placed stringent Hours of Service (HOS) limits on truck drivers. Both agencies issued an emergency declaration that allows truckers delivering vital goods and materials to self-regulate driver fatigue until the COVID-19 health emergency subsides.
“This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people,” FMCSA acting administrator Jim Mullen reportedly said.
The HOS relief includes deliveries of medical supplies and equipment, materials for temporary housing, and food supplies at local supermarkets, among others. But despite their heroic efforts to buoy the nation in this troubled time, truckers are experiencing disruption on the road. Restaurants and dining rooms along their routes have been temporarily shuttered. And because they are trekking the country, pickup and drop off locations are asking them to remain in the cab during loading and unloading. Reports have even come in that certain facilities won’t let hard-working truck drivers in the building to use restrooms.
Although truck stops chains have been required to close sit-down dining areas, many are opening take-out windows. But over-the-road CDL holders have other needs besides being able to eat in their rigs.
“In the coming weeks and months, it will be critical that these businesses remain open, 24 hours a day, providing America’s truck drivers with fuel, food, showers, repair services, and opportunities to rest,” the FMCSA’s Mullen reportedly said.
This should serve as a reminder for everyone in the political class. The people keeping supply lines open are the same people Washington elites would have happily sold out just months ago through free trade agreements. Their jobs are important, and outsourcing labor of this caliber to authoritarian hell scapes like China simply cannot happen.
These are also jobs that automation cannot replace. While technology breaks down, American truckers understand the humane nature of their job, and that their countrymen are depending on them. You can’t program this into an AI.
As truckers drive long hours to keep everyday Americans’ food supplies in place, it’s crucial that their industry’s infrastructure clean and sanitize facilities on delivery routes. Regardless, great American truckers appear willing to do their part during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Major national crises tend to expose underlying truths about society that otherwise go unnoticed during life’s regular routines. They reveal the individuals among us who are truly essential to upholding the high standard of living we’ve collectively come to expect. They remind us of America’s unsung heroes,” the American Association of Truckers stated. “And just as they do when a hurricane strikes or a blizzard hits, America’s professional truck drivers will be on the front lines delivering critical supplies and aid to fellow citizens.”