DOT Secretary Weighs in on “Heroic” Truckers, COVID-19 Response, and Rest Area Closures
Washington D.C. – The Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) weighed in today on a host of issues impacting the trucking industry amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a conference call hosted on Wednesday by the DOT, Secretary Elaine Chao was joined by Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to speak with and answer questions from more than 460 commercial motor vehicle (CMV) stakeholders.
Secretary Chao opened her remarks by praising America’s truck drivers.
“First, let me thank all of you, and especially America’s truck drivers, for your heroic action during this difficult time,” Chao said. “I know it hasn’t been easy! But the whole country is cheering on America’s truckers and motor carrier drivers, as they work tirelessly to keep our country’s supply chains strong and our economy moving.”
She continued with her commendations for truckers.
“Please pass along my sincere thanks to your staff, and especially the drivers on the frontlines, who are working to deliver food, medical supplies, cleaning products, paper goods and other critical supplies to communities throughout our country. You are true heroes!”
DOT’s Response to COVID-19 Outbreak
Sec. Chao outlined a number of measures the FMCSA has taken to provide regulatory relief to truckers and motor carriers during this time of national emergency.
She stressed the importance of the FMCSA’s historic Emergency Declaration which waived hours of service (HOS) requirements in all 50 states for CMV operators hauling relief supplies.
“Last week, The Department expanded that declaration to include haulers of additional essential items, including fuel and other raw materials,” she noted.
Sec. Chao also highlighted actions taken this week as the FMCSA issued a temporary waiver through June 30, 2020, for expiring commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) and medical cards.
Keeping Rest Areas Open
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) created a firestorm throughout the trucking community when it closed 30 rest areas statewide on March 17.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) was the first to break the news and it wasn’t long until groups such as the American Trucking Association (ATA), Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), and Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) expressed outrage over the closures.
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The ATA even sent an urgent letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence urging them to help get the rest areas reopened.
PennDOT then reversed course and within 48 hours partially reopened 13 rest areas to allow drivers to park.
On Tuesday of this week, PennDOT announced it was reopening, including indoor facilities, 23 of the 30 rest areas it closed last week.
Click HERE to read more about this story and view a list of reopened locations.
Sec. Chao weighed in on rest area closures and the actions the DOT is taking to ensure all rest areas across the nation remain open.
“We have heard from many people about their concerns that some states may close rest areas in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus,” she said. “So I’ve asked Acting Administrator Mullen to reach out and work with state Departments of Transportation and others to keep these critical infrastructures open, so that motor carrier drivers have a safe place to rest.”
Feedback is “Critical”
Sec. Chao also discussed how important it is that DOT leaders hear from those within the trucking community who are on the frontlines in the battle against the coronavirus health crisis.
“The Department is a key part of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force,” she stressed. “Every day, we feed the critical information we get from you and other stakeholders into the Task Force, so they can get a complete picture of how COVID-19 is impacting our country and craft policies to address it.”
Following the Secretary’s remarks, Acting Administrator Mullen answered a series of questions submitted by the call’s participants specific to the actions FMCSA has taken.
He too expressed his “sincere appreciation” for the efforts of the trucking community.
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Get more news on the FMCSA’s response to the coronavirus outbreak HERE.