Two long-standing truck taxes are in the industry’s cross-hairs for suspensions that would provide temporary relief to independent drivers and carriers during the COVID-19 recession that has put extra strain on the trucking industry.
Bob Costello, chief economist and senior vice president of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), has seen a lot in his 25 years of forecasting, and one thing he keeps repeating is that no matter how bad the economic numbers look, we didn’t get here because of economic conditions.
This year has changed exponentially since the novel coronavirus entered the country. What started out with stampedes for toilet paper has since escalated to civil unrest and protests for change.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in May that it would begin the use of off-site compliance reviews for motor carriers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This action was not unexpected because the FMCSA’s use of off-site audits had increased over 300% between 2018 and 2019. As the number of fleets that are audited remotely grows, so does the need for guidance on how to prepare and successfully pass an off-site audit.
In its latest extension, however, FMCSA condensed its definition of motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to COVID-19. FMCSA has extended emergency relief for the following categories only:
One month ago, 27 State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) were closed, along with most government offices, due to COVID-19 concerns. If you wanted to obtain your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and join the trucking industry, or even a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) to get started, you had about a 50/50 shot that your state would allow it.
The odds have improved to 66%, with only 17 states completely closed now, but several roadblocks still remain between prospective drivers and a job in trucking.
In general, the chances of a truck driver catching COVID-19 are small compared to other essential workers. They’re by themselves most of the work-day and come in contact with few people in their off hours. And, many shippers and receivers are practicing ‘no-touch’ and ‘no leaving cab’ encounters.
Now the bad news.
Because drivers are statistically unhealthier than the average American – often suffering a compromised immune system from hypertension, diabetes, obesity and sleep apnea – they are more susceptible to poor outcomes if they do contract the virus.
Truckers have kept much of the economy afloat as large portions of the nation shelter in place to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
But those truckers have delivered badly needed food, household goods and medical supplies at risk to themselves. They have to fuel their vehicles. They need rest and food stops. They take loads and drop cargo off at docks. Every point of contact is a point of risk.
Commercial Truck Trader has compiled advice for ways truckers can stay safe on the road until the pandemic subsides.