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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is distributing 1 million protective masks to commercial truck drivers to enhance safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency announced the distribution effort, led by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, on April 29. The effort reflects a partnership with state representatives, industry groups and motor carriers. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided the masks.
“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Department of Transportation been supporting America’s truckers during this challenging time,” FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen said. “We have all seen the incredible efforts that the nation’s commercial drivers are making each day to deliver goods and supplies to homes, businesses and hospitals throughout America. With the help of our state partners and the motor carrier industry, these protective masks will help truckers remain safe and healthy while they continue to maintain our nation’s supply chain.”
Some 800,000 masks are being distributed across Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and Texas. An additional 200,000 masks are being delivered directly to carriers to distribute to drivers.
“[American Trucking Associations] is pleased to be working with FMCSA and our state associations to help distribute masks to professional drivers,” ATA spokesman Sean McNally said. “Access to [personal protective equipment] is an important part of keeping our supply chain and economy running, and we would like to thank acting Administrator Mullen, Secretary Chao and President Trump for their efforts to keep our drivers safe and healthy.”
In New York, the state that has been struck most severely by the virus, distribution will take place in the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as at the Sloatsburg travel center, which is about 20 miles west of the Hudson River, close to the New Jersey border.
Distribution in Arkansas will take place at points along several major routes, including interstates 30, 40 and 55. Specifically, distribution locations will be set up near Arkansas’ borders with Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee.
In California, distribution will occur at two points outside Los Angeles and eight California Highway Patrol Field Divisions throughout the state.
“We thank the FMCSA for helping to protect the health of our nation’s truck drivers as they continue to deliver essential goods,” California Trucking Association CEO Shawn Yadon said.
Working with the Illinois Trucking Association and the Illinois State Police, FMCSA was set to distribute 50,000 masks throughout the state April 30. Distribution was to take place at a travel center known as the Lincoln Oasis, which sits on an overlapping portion of interstates 80 and 294, some 30 miles south of Chicago.
According to Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, the industry employs about 300,000 people in the state.
“Face masks have been difficult for many drivers to find, especially with Illinois’ new requirement for face coverings in public,” Hart said. “These masks will provide truck drivers with additional protection during the coronavirus pandemic while they safely deliver the groceries and medical supplies that Americans need each day.”
The mask distribution effort is one of a few measures FMCSA has taken to provide relief to truckers during the pandemic. The agency issued a nationwide emergency declaration offering relief of hours-of-service rules for motor carriers hauling essential freight, and subsequently extended that declaration through May 15.
Separately, FMCSA announced it would allow third-party commercial driver license test examiners who are authorized to administer CDL skills tests to also manage CDL knowledge tests without completing a training course for the test.
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