Trucking Groups Take Notice of Who Was Missing From White House Tribute to Truckers
Washington D.C. – This week’s celebration of truckers at the White House is drawing criticism in some circles of the trucking industry for who was noticeably missing.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump hosted an event on the South Lawn of the White House to honor and thank truckers for their dedication through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the war against the virus, the American truckers are the foot soldiers who are really carrying us to victory,” President Trump said. “To every trucker listening over the radio and behind the wheel, I know I speak for 330 million plus Americans and we say, ‘Thank God for truckers!’”
President Trump was joined by United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary, Elaine Chao, along with four truckers from companies such as DHL, FedEx Ground, Big G Express and UPS.
Each were honored with a special gift from the President.
Secretary Chao also made it a point to include American Trucking Associations (ATA) president, Chris Spear, in the ceremony.
Despite shining a bright spotlight on the brave and tireless work truckers are doing amid the national emergency, the event was swiftly met with ferocious criticism by some trucking groups and many truckers.
Drawing the ire of these groups and the many truckers they represent wasn’t so much who was invited, but who wasn’t.
“Although we appreciate the President’s sentiment and attempts to acknowledge and appreciate the service of truckers during this pandemic, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) is disappointed that the Secretary chose to confine yesterday’s White House event to ATA, big carrier executives, and a few token drivers who work for mega carriers,” James Lamb, president of SBTC told Transportation Nation Network (TNN).
Lamb says he heard from countless of his nearly 15,000 members who “felt slighted” by the perceived snub.
“In arranging this event, Elaine Chao ignored small carriers and owner-operators and representatives of small carriers within the trucking industry,” he said.
David Owen, president of the nearly 12,000-member National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), echoed some of Lamb’s sentiments about the limited guest list.
“As usual, we weren’t invited to the dance and we won’t be, but don’t blame Trump,” he said. “I can’t blame the President mainly because he didn’t plan this thing six months out.”
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Like Lamb, Owen places the blame for the limited guest list on Secretary Chao and her team within the USDOT whose responsibility it is to help the President build coalitions of understanding between all segments of the trucking industry.
“I would remind all of them that there were 443,000 for-hire carriers in the U.S. last year and only about 1,400 of them have over 100 trucks. When you eliminate small business truckers from those kinds of events you are eliminating 99 percent of the trucking industry,” Owen stated.
Other notable trucking groups not invited were the Truckload Carriers Association, Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), and numerous other grassroots organizations.
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While many thanked President Trump for hosting such an event other presidents before him never did, others voiced that appreciation is most received when it comes in the form of action.
In a statement, OOIDA president Todd Spencer expressed this point.
“Improvements in the overall environment for drivers and better pay makes drivers feel appreciated while hard at work and while they are home with family and friends,” he said.
OOIDA sent out a call to action to its more than 160,000 members to contact U.S. lawmakers and urge them to do more to assist truckers who are on the frontline in battling the COVID-19 emergency.
OOIDA says measures such as waiving the 2020 payment for heavy vehicle use tax, allowing trucking companies to account for additional business expenses when applying for a Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loan, and providing more COVID-19 testing and protective equipment at weigh stations and rest areas, will more meaningfully demonstrate sincere appreciation.
Who and How?
On Friday, TNN reached out to the White House, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to inquire as to who determined the guest list and how such determinations were made.
At time of publishing, neither had provided a statement or answers to our inquiries.
However, if/when we do receive such information, TNN will update this article with the responses.