FMCSA Considers Unprecedented Action Amid Rise in Violence and Highway Protests
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is coming under increasing pressure to suspend hours of service (HOS) regulations for all truckers amid the rise in violence and continued dangers and delays resulting from highway protests in cities across the nation.
Again this week we saw protesters stage a demonstration along a major roadway.
In Louisville, KY, protesters affiliated with the local Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter shut down the Clark Memorial Bridge for several hours causing motorists to be delayed an forcing them to find alternate routes.
The week before in Raleigh, NC, a BLM group of protesters brought traffic to a crawl along I-40 in a slow roll demonstration.
Multiple local news outlets with reporters on the scene said “hundreds” of motorists participated by slowing their vehicles down to 10 m.p.h. while traveling in the westbound lanes.
Authorities reported traffic was backed up for 10 miles.
Since the death of George Floyd, protesters have carried out similar demonstrations in dozens of cities across the nation.
Calls to Suspend H.O.S. are Growing
In response, a growing number of trucking groups and truckers are now asking the FMCSA to suspend HOS.
One group urging the FMCSA to take this course of action is the United Transportation Association (UTA).
UTA leaders have been advising Missouri State Representative Mike Moon, who also made big news this week.
Moon is demanding that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Acting Administrator Jim Mullen immediately suspend HOS for all “freight haulers.”
“Violent protests threaten the disruption of American lives and commerce,” he wrote in a letter to Missouri Governor Mike Parson.
Moon argues the “inability to choose the safest route places drivers in imminent danger of assault, injury and/or death, potential loss of freight, and damage to their vehicles.”
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Rep. Moon says USDOT Secretary Chao is failing truckers.
Joining UTA and Moon is the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC).
On Thursday, James Lamb, president of the SBTC, sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the Administration to take action.
“Because truckers have to follow detours around protests, interstate shut downs, riots, fires, and looting, the FMCSA, as the Secretary’s designee, should immediately suspend the HOS regulations for all commercial motor vehicle operators nationwide,” Lamb wrote. “This is necessary until the government reclaims law and order and terminates the egregious and unusual threats truckers currently face.”
Also joining in the growing chorus of voices in support of an HOS suspension is New Jersey trucker and trucking social media influencer Rick Santiago.
In a video this week, Santiago told his more than 35,000 Facebook followers, “When we pick up a load, the one thing that we are working against is time and while these protesters and rioters and looters are storming the highways it’s affecting our transportation,” he said. “We are going to have to navigate and go around and probably add time to our trip.”
Further, Santiago also expressed concerns shared by many truckers about being targeted by rioters which we have seen in cities such as Albany, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Louisville, KY; Minneapolis, MN; and St. Louis, MO, just to name a few.
“If buildings are targets and police are targets… trucks are also targets. One truck driver attacked is one too many. If the FMCSA stands for safety then you have to stand for us truck drivers as well,” he said.
In an exclusive statement to Transportation Nation Network (TNN) on Tuesday, an Agency spokesperson put forward FMCSA’s position regarding the rise in violence toward truckers.
“FMCSA is concerned about any violence toward truckers and urges any drivers who are threatened or experience crimes committed against them to immediately contact the police,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also revealed Acting Administrator Mullen and his team are looking for ways within their power to address the troubling situation including a possible suspension of HOS regulations.
“The Agency always welcomes and wants input from drivers and is actively reviewing its statutory authorities concerning this issue,” he said.
Also adding to the intrigue this week were comments made by Joe DeLorenzo, FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement Director.
DeLorenzo joined the popular BlogTalk Radio show, “Trucking With the Schmitts,” to discuss questions regarding the Agency’s HOS Final Rule set to take effect in September.
However, DeLorenzo was asked what, if any, actions the Agency was taking to stop the growing problem of protesters blocking interstates and highways.
His response raised quite a few eyebrows.
“When those things happen, that becomes a State law enforcement issue,” DeLorenzo said. “What am I going to do about it? Right?”
DeLorenzo was asked about a possible HOS suspension and downplayed it.
“We watch those things, we monitor the emergencies… we just haven’t seen at this point that there’s that significant of an impact,” he said. “It seems to really have kind of tapered off where there is not a significant impact to commerce where it was causing people problems and they needed more hours. It’s a delicate balance, you know, freedom of speech and keeping interstate commerce moving.”
Following those comments an Agency spokesperson clarified to TNN that FMCSA’s official position was the statement originally provided to TNN, not the comments articulated by DeLorenzo.
Multiple trusted sources tell TNN the Agency is expected to further outline its position next week, so make sure to stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for more on this developing story.
Photos courtesy Marcus Sommers and Shawn Johnson/Wisconsin Public Radio