USDOT’s Silence on D.C. Rally Speaks Loud and Clear Message to Truckers
Washington D.C. – Leaders of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) have yet to publicly acknowledge the concerns of the truckers rallying in Washington D.C. and that silence is sending many truckers a loud and clear message.
A determined group of truckers began rallying in our nation’s capital last Friday, May 1, as part of the MayDay demonstrations in cities across the country.
It was originally intended to be a three-day event for the expressed purpose of bringing awareness to low freight rates being offered to small business truckers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then something remarkable happened.
The President of the United States responded.
On Sunday evening, May 3, President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the group and all truckers.
He even sent two White House staffers to deliver gifts — red and blue hats branded “USA Strong” and “Keep America Great” — and a message directly to the truckers.
“I’ve got a message from the boss. He said he supports you guys 100 percent,” Shawn Mcintosh, one of the rally organizers told Transportation Nation Network (TNN) the President’s aides told the group.
Multiple other people present at the time told TNN the staffers indicated the President was interested in talking with members of the group and would “work on the meeting.”
All was quiet throughout much of the week until Mr. Trump once again expressed his support for the truckers in a nationally televised interview on Fox News Friday morning.
Click HERE to read President Trump’s full comments.
USDOT and FMCSA Remain Quiet
While President Trump has not shied away from the issue, leaders at the USDOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have yet to echo the President’s sentiments.
In fact, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao and FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen have yet to even publicly comment on the event or the issues surrounding it.
In a conference call with more than 170 motor carrier stakeholders last week, Acting Administrator Mullen had a forum to address the issue, but made no mention of it.
“They haven’t made a comment because they know they have failed miserably,” Mcintosh told TNN on Sunday. “We’ve gone to them so many times and that’s never even gone to the ears of the man in the White House who can do something about it. So, we’ll sit here until we get a meeting with him.”
Mcintosh was quick to point to recent data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which reveals trucker crash deaths rose to a 30-year high in 2018.
The latest data released just last week indicates NHTSA expects crash deaths among large truck occupants to be even higher for 2019 when the final report is issued later this fall.
Mcintosh largely blames regulations such as the controversial electronic logging devices (ELDs) mandate for the rise in trucker highway fatalities.
“ELDs were supposed to save lives,” he commented.
USDOT leaders acknowledged the alarming rise in deaths among truckers is a concern.
In response, the FMCSA announced in January of this year that it intended to study the causation behind the rise.
Click HERE to read more about what might really be driving the FMCSA’s crash study.
Mcintosh and other truckers TNN has spoken with are also expressing outrage over the USDOT’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As truckers were on the front lines navigating into hot spots in the first weeks of the national health emergency, Mcintosh says not enough was done to protect the drivers.
“Why did we not have personal protective equipment (PPE)? Why were we not provided testing? They completely failed the men and women who are the backbone of the country.”
In the last couple of weeks, the FMCSA has begun distributing approximately 1 million face masks free to drivers at dozens of locations across the nation.
However, USDOT leaders have not yet explained why it took more than six weeks to begin disbursing the PPE.
A Seat at the Table
Most drivers participating in the D.C. rally also tell TNN they simply want a “seat at the table” inside the USDOT and particularly the FMCSA.
One of those drivers is Janet Sanchez of Ocala, FL.
Sanchez and her husband have operated a trucking business for the last ten years.
She says the state of the industry for small business truckers has been deteriorating during much of that time.
“It’s gone to Hell,” she said. “I’ve seen it slowly but surely slipping. It’s just becoming harder. These companies can’t continue.“
Sanchez and her fellow rally participants want to see truckers with years of over-the-road experience better represented within the federal government.
“We have a very strong agreement that the people that should be making regulations should be drivers with experience. Our goal is to get people in there that know what they are doing,” she exclaimed.
Meeting With The President?
Mcintosh and Sanchez say they are not leaving Washington D.C. without having a chance to speak directly to President Trump.
The elusive meeting that at times seemed likely, has not yet happened.
Further, according to Mcintosh, the White House has not made contact with the group in a week.
TNN has repeatedly asked the FMCSA if USDOT leaders would encourage or discourage the President from sitting down with rally organizers, but the Agency has declined to directly answer that question.
Perhaps USDOT’s unwillingness to even comment on the matter is helping to validate these truckers’ concerns about not having a seat at the table.
Mcintosh insists the time for taking those concerns to the USDOT has passed which is why he and other rally leaders so desperately desire a meeting with Mr. Trump.
“All we are asking for is a meeting. It can even be a telephone call. It doesn’t have to be face to face. We don’t even want to talk to Secretary Chao. The only one that can help us now is the man in the White House and we’re staying until we do,” he declared.
Stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for the latest developments on this ongoing story.