Editorial: Truckers Help in Times of Need

Florence is bearing down on the southeastern United States, bringing sustained heavy rains and wind — and the potential for significant damage.

The role truck drivers will play in the expected recovery efforts was not lost on the U.S. Department of Transportation. In a Sept. 10 statement issued to commemorate National Truck Driver Appreciation Week — Sept. 9-15 — Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said millions of people would be “especially grateful in the coming days for truck drivers” who, she said, would be delivering food, fuel and other critical supplies to communities in the storm’s wake. Chao praised truck drivers for bringing the supplies that “save lives, provide comfort and allow people to rebuild.”

Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, but the expectation of significant damage remained high — and with it, the need for rebuilding efforts. To help speed delivery of supplies to affected areas post-storm, states in and around the region temporarily lifted hours-of-service and size-and-weight restrictions for truckers bringing relief supplies and working on recovery efforts. We commend government leaders for making these common-sense moves in a time of need.

Perhaps ironically, these temporary adjustments to HOS limits were being implemented during a week when nearly 2,000 comments were on file with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as part of the agency’s review of its HOS rules, with many filings coming from drivers who would like to see some permanent changes to the rules.

Just as the storm-related changes give drivers flexibility to adjust their schedules to get supplies to the affected areas, so, too, do drivers want flexibility for rest breaks during “normal” days. In fact, trucker comments reviewed for this story say that they’re fine with being required to take breaks — they just want more flexibility on when to take them. This, too, seems to make sense.

It will be at least another week — perhaps longer, if FMCSA extends the deadline — before industry groups comment on potential changes to HOS rules. And against the backdrop of a major storm, that’s fine. The business of writing laws can be temporarily tabled while those living in Hurricane Florence’s path are helped through the storm’s aftermath. First responders, aid groups, volunteers and, yes, truck drivers, are there to help.