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Defeating COVID-19 is a truly national effort. It’s playing out in every state across the country, in small towns and big cities alike. While pundits insist on framing everything through the partisan lens of D.C. politics, always with an eye toward November, the true story is happening much closer to the ground, where the rubber meets the road.
The reality is Americans aren’t thinking about November. They’re focused on today and tomorrow. They’re concerned about paying bills, putting food on the table and getting ends to meet.
Truckers are proudly doing their part to help get fellow Americans through this crisis. What they ask—and what they need—is for government officials to permit them to do so. Allow for trucks to keep rolling through whatever tough and necessary measures taken to protect public health. Because impeding their safe and efficient movement, and disrupting national supply lines, only pours gasoline on the problem.
When supply lines are disrupted, consequences are fast to follow. Grocery shelves don’t get restocked. Frontline workers are delayed receiving shipments of PPE. Doctors, first responders, emergency technicians and medical personnel are denied on-demand access to the life-saving supplies they critically need in the thick of this fight.
These arteries of interstate commerce are vital to protecting the public. That’s why leaders from the law enforcement community have gone great lengths to stress the importance of truck movements to government leaders, directly to the President of the United States on down.
The novel coronavirus doesn’t distinguish between federal, state and local government, but our success in defeating it hinges on smart policy from all three levels. The virus doesn’t recognize state borders, but mitigating its spread – and curbing its impact on public health and the economy – requires policies across states that function independently yet also work in tandem.
Even greater importance is added in times like now, when public health, safety and well-being rests in the hands of multiple government agencies at various levels being able to coordinate effectively and cooperate seamlessly.
Governors are playing a central role in this national effort, and they should be recognized for the difficult decisions they’re being dealt daily. Many find themselves in an unprecedented crisis, not of their own making, and for which no manual or handbook exists. Their leadership now is pivotal.
Truckers know why, because they continue to serve on the frontlines throughout this crisis, operating in challenging conditions, under heightened states of urgency, to ensure Americans’ most basic and vital needs are met. They’re delivering PPE, medicine, food and other essentials while navigating complicated and conflicting mandates, decrees and public orders.
Hasty government decisions, however well-intentioned, made without input from our industry can easily be the difference that prevents trucks getting from A to B. Last week, in Utah, Governor Herbert issued an executive order requiring anyone entering the state to stop and fill out an electronic survey documenting their medical history and where they’ve been over the prior two weeks. Receiving a mandatory survey on their cell phone raises a litany of questions and concerns, distracting and delaying truck drivers from getting to their destination. What is the right answer, what is the wrong answer? Is there a legal element, or an enforcement element, to these questions?
Officials from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration contacted the Governor’s office, and working with our federation partners at the Utah Trucking Association, we reached out to the state’s transportation officials to convey the unintended consequences of this proposal. Shortly thereafter, the Governor resolved the matter by creating a carveout from the order for truckers.
In crises like these, the ability to adapt and course-correct is absolutely crucial. We appreciate Governor Herbert and team for taking these extra steps to ensure trucks can keep rolling and serving Utahns. We encourage other states considering similar measures, such as New Mexico, to take this into consideration and talk to our industry before moving forward on any such proposal.
Here are three steps all governors can immediately take to ensure their states and residents remain well-supplied throughout this national emergency:
1. Exempt truck traffic from border checks.
Obstacles, whether physical, electronic or otherwise, impede the flow of commerce and deter truck traffic. What public officials should know about over-the-road and professional interstate drivers: If they want to avoid a state, they will. If they need to go around a state, they’ll find the way to. If drivers aren’t willing to go there, supplies aren’t going to arrive.
We strongly encourage transportation officials considering border check policies to consider how such obstacles will impede commerce and deter truck traffic and to provide carveouts for commercial trucks.
2. Keep public rest stops – including indoor bathroom facilities – open.
Truckers, like any human being, have basic needs. They need places to rest, places to eat and places to use the bathroom. Without them, truckers can’t do their job safely and efficiently. That’s why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has deemed truck stops critical infrastructure and their service personnel designated as essential workforce. These facilities are instrumental to interstate commerce.
Fleets depend on these rest areas when charting their lanes, as drivers need predictable break points to rest according to federal regulations. When rest areas are shuttered and drivers can’t access bathrooms, carriers are forced to remap their routes, disrupting supply lines.
3. Ensure we have enough drivers on the road to meet demand.
The closing of state drivers license agencies has created a hurdle for new drivers seeking to join the profession. Shuttered or limited services at SDLAs denies new entrants the ability to take required tests to obtain their commercial learners permit and subsequent commercial drivers license. States should ensure SDLAs remain open for these essential services.
Interstate commerce and the free flow of goods between states is protected by the U.S. Constitution for good reason. In times of prosperity, it’s the system that powers America’s economic engine. In times of crisis, it provides that vital lifeline, ensuring full and timely delivery of critical relief and life-saving supplies to those in need.
Governors must do everything to keep trucks moving. The health, safety and well-being of their residents depend on it.