USDOT Remains Quiet As Danger Increases for Truckers Amid Civil Unrest
Washington D.C. – Reports of big rigs and truckers being targeted by rioters continue to emerge, yet so far, leadership at the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has remained quiet.
Widespread anger stemming from the death of 46-year-old George Floyd has devolved into civil unrest in dozens of major U.S. cities.
In the last week, Americans have watched as countless businesses have been ransacked, highways blocked, buildings set ablaze, monuments and landmarks defaced, police cars destroyed, and much more.
However, most Americans have watched these horrific scenes play out from the safety of their own homes.
Meanwhile, truckers are tasked with restocking these cities with critical goods and bearing the risks of doing so.
In fact, truckers are increasingly facing dangers of operating into and out of these hot spot areas.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) was the first national media outlet to report that, on Saturday during an early morning press conference, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz warned truckers that rioters and looters in the Twin Cities area were blocking roads and “raiding semis.”
Graham operated through downtown St. Louis early last Saturday morning just moments before a FedEx tractor pulling twin trailers fell under siege by a group of rioters, leading to the death of one of the looters.
TNN has also closely followed the dramatic events and subsequent fallout after 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko of Otsego, MN unintentionally drove his empty semi-tanker into an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 protesters along Intestate 35 on Sunday.
Miraculously, Vechirko, who officials have since determined lawfully accessed the interstate after making a delivery, was able to bring the rig to a stop without harming anyone even as protesters descended on his truck bashing in the windshield.
He was then pulled from the vehicle and physically assaulted by a group of protesters, while some in attendance urged the group not to harm him and even attempted to shield him from the violence.
Read more about Vechirko HERE.
While TNN has thankfully yet to receive any reports of a trucker suffering death or serious injury as a result of the recent uprisings, many have sounded off on our social media pages about the growing dangers.
Also amid the chaos, a growing number of local and state officials have been forced to close stretches of interstates as protesters have blocked roadways and bridges.
The blockages and road closures have resulted in delayed deliveries and a growing number of cancellations, according to multiple sources TNN has spoken with this week.
USDOT Remaining Quiet So Far
USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao has yet to comment on any of these disturbing developments.
Further, Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also remained silent on these issues.
TNN has reached out multiple times to the FMCSA since last week requesting comment.
Plus, we have sought any guidance the Agency might provide on recommended measures truckers could or should take if unavoidably faced with any of these dangerous situations.
So far, the Agency has declined to comment.
Additionally, it is unclear what — if any — steps the USDOT and FMCSA are taking to assist in providing for the safety of truckers as they engage in interstate commerce during this new national emergency.
It’s no secret that in recent months truckers have braved the uncertainty and health risks of COVID-19 in an effort to ensure hundreds of millions of Americans continue to have access to essential supplies for daily living.
Secretary Chao and others within the USDOT have been vocal in their praise for truckers, even calling them “true American heroes.”
In a recently penned opinion editorial following the release of the USDOT’s hours of service (HOS) final rule, Secretary Chao once again used it as an opportunity to champion the work of America’s trucking industry.
“Truckers have demonstrated a selfless willingness to sacrifice on behalf of Americans during this tough time,” she wrote. “The president and the Department of Transportation will never stop fighting for them.”
One way many truckers are asking the USDOT to fight for them during this tenuous time is by working with law enforcement officials to ensure interstate commerce is unobstructed.
Further, when it is obstructed, insisting that those responsible for doing so are held to account.
Specifically, multiple truckers have pointed to the Hobbs Act: 18 U.S. Code § 1951, which makes a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment not more than twenty years, or both:
Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section…
It is unclear how much longer the unrest, and specifically the violence, will continue.
What is certain though is truckers will be counted on to keep America moving despite the unprecedented times in which we are living.
Stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for the latest on all of this and much more.
Photo used with permission of Dustin Walterscheid