- The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) wrote to Congress Monday to ask for regulatory relief beyond the COVID-19 crisis. OOIDA told lawmakers that the need for trucking will continue, even if the COVID-19 crisis soon ends.
- Trucking is a demanding profession under normal conditions, but "COVID-19 is testing even the most experienced drivers. Finding a place to park, eat, shower, and use the restroom has proven to be exceptionally difficult for our members," OOIDA CEO Todd Spencer said in the letter.
- Spencer said truckers continue to be saddled with "excessive taxes, regulatory burdens, poor working conditions, low wages, and a forgotten appreciation from the American people."
Spencer and OOIDA noted the requests come at a time of crisis for the nation, but added truckers were delivering everything Americans need before the outbreak.
"Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for the media, the general public and Congress to truly appreciate everything they do," Spencer wrote.
The letter aims to capitalize on newfound appreciation of truckers.
As Jon Coca, president of Diamond Transportation, recently told Transport Dive, "Truckers are vital to getting the products to the store shelves and equipment to hospitals, but that shouldn’t be a news flash. It's true every day of every week of every year."
The first thing Spencer asked for is the passage of Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, H.R. 6104, legislation that would provide funding for projects that expand truck parking capacity. The bill would give $755 million to states to expand truck parking at rest stops or to convert out-of-use properties along highways. The bill has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
"The lack of truck parking has been its own national crisis for far too long," Spencer wrote. "Matters have been made worse by COVID-19, as states, localities and individual facilities further restrict parking options. The lack of truck parking is a complex problem, but H.R. 6104 is a simple first step toward improving conditions for drivers."
Spencer also asked Congress to push the FMCSA on efforts to modernize and improve HOS regulations. He noted in response to COVID-19, many HOS requirements have been waived or amended to expedite the movement of freight, "without much (if any) opposition from elected officials. Yet, when truckers advocate for slightly more flexibility in HOS standards, they are often met with strong resistance on Capitol Hill."
"Drivers have been telling Congress for years they need relief from existing HOS requirements because they are overly rigid and counterproductive," Spencer wrote. "Truckers shouldn’t just get this relief when the nation needs their help responding to an emergency."
Spencer asked Congress to address unpaid detention time. The time spent idling at factories and warehouses "reduces driver wages, slows the movement of freight and has been linked to increased crash rates," Spencer wrote. "Many drivers spend countless unpaid on-duty hours being detained due to the inefficiency of others within the supply chain." OOIDA suggests making data public to inform people about which parts of the supply chain are inefficient.
Congress should also waive the 2020 payment of the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) to "provide immediate tax relief to owner-operators, many of which are struggling to keep their businesses operational during the crisis," Spencer wrote. "A straightforward way to help keep owner-operators in business would be a one-time waiver of the $550 fee most of our members pay per vehicle."