All along America’s highways, trucks hauling vital relief supplies are cutting through red tape, thanks to President Donald Trump.
On March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that a 1938 law regulating the hours of service for truck drivers was being waived on a national basis to battle the coronavirus. The agency said this was first time the rule had ever been waived throughout the country.
“I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the well-being of America first,” Trump said, according to a White House media pool report.
The rule currently forbids truck drivers from driving more than 11 hours during a 14-hour work period. After that, drivers are required by law to have 10 hours of downtime.
The waiver, issued by Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, exempts truckers hauling medicine and other supplies necessary to battle the outbreak of the virus, FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said.
“Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people,” Mullen said in a statement.
In addition to medicine, the waiver covers haulers carrying food to restock depleted store shelves, sanitation and cleaning supplies, equipment needed to construct temporary housing, or those who are being moved to either provide emergency services or to be removed to quarantine.
The waiver requires that after drivers reach their destination, they have at least 10 hours of down time if they’ve been carrying goods, and at least eight hours if they have been transporting people.
Although the decision announced March 13 is the first of its kind nationally, the rule has been suspended on a more limited basis during other emergencies, according to Business Insider.
“Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response,” America Trucking Associations spokesman Sean McNally said, according Business Insider. “This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic.”
“[T]here’s been a tremendous amount of coordination with states, with cities, and they’re a little smaller form of government, and they have things going well. They’re coordinating with us. And certain, in particular, I think California has been terrific — the relationship. New York has been really good. We’ve had some really good relationships in terms of — especially the hotspots. And we’re focused on those hotspots,” he said.
“We’re all in this together. It’s something that nobody expected. It came out of China, and it’s one of those things that happened. It’s nobody’s fault. We all — we all will solve this problem. We’ll solve it well,” Trump said.
“I think the American people have been incredible in the way they’ve acted,” Trump said. “There’s been — and if you look at companies and sports leagues and all of the things, what they’ve done is — is just something very special, without being told, necessarily. In some cases, perhaps they were told, actually. But for the most part, they want to get it over with.”
Vice President Mike Pence also praised the nation’s response to the crisis.
“[T]he American people are all responding to look after not only their own health but their families and their communities. And one story after another is truly inspiring to the president and to all of us,” he said.
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