As the United States gradually shuts down in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the trucking and tire industry is appealing to the government to allow gas stations, rest stops, and repair facilities to remain open to keep deliveries rolling.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, for example, shut down all of its rest areas and welcome centers to the public on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it agreed to reopen the parking lots at nearly half of them at the request of truckers and the Trump administration.
Other states are considering similar closures, officials said, to try to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus and discourage people from traveling.
That’s a stupid idea and should be abandoned posthaste.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which counts 160,000 members nationwide, said closures were giving drivers the impression that they were being asked to put productivity ahead of their own personal safety.
“Rest areas aren’t simply places to purchase snacks and beverages from vending machines – they are invaluable locations to rest when fatigued,” the association said in a letter to the U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. It said truckers “rely on rest areas to do just that – rest!”
A spokesman for Chao said the department was asking states to keep rest stops open for parking – even if they no longer had public employees on site.
The issue is especially urgent since the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency order on Friday to waive the usual time-off requirements for commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency coronavirus relief.
On Wednesday, FMCSA said it was expanding the order to include other categories of deliveries, including fuel and raw materials – such as paper, plastic or alcohol – used in the manufacture of essential items like sanitizers.
Let the trucks roll. And do everything you can to keep the drivers comfortable. They’re performing an absolutely essential service.