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May 11, 2020 5:00 PM, EDT

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: ‘Truckers Are Our Heroes’

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoTransportation Secretary heralded the nation's truckers for keeping food and vital medical products moving. "They are keeping the supply chain open, and they’re basically allowing America to still operate," she says. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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“Hero” is a term commonly reserved for certain individuals. An understanding in society is to use it for the best and brightest professional athletes.

ESPN’s recent focus on Michael Jordan probably is persuading some enthusiasts to think of the retired player as a hero. Jordan is to basketball fans, what Wayne Gretzky is to hockey fans, and Pele is to fans of soccer, and so on.

In the era of COVID-19, in which professional sports are absent from daily life, the contributions of health care workers, first responders, and truckers are garnering national attention.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

Transportation has never been more economically important. Commercial drivers have been the ones delivering shipments of groceries to your neighborhood supermarket while you’ve been indoors.

“These truckers are our heroes because they are keeping the supply chain open, and they’re basically allowing America to still operate, to still function. Because of their actions, their courageous actions, we’re able to stay home and self-quarantine, shelter-in-place,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said this month. “I cannot speak enough of them.”

To enhance their operations during the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation has temporarily waived certain industry regulations. It also proceeded with the distribution of a million protective masks to improve the safety of truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated it had collaborated with state agencies, stakeholders and motor carriers to distribute the protective face masks provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There were 800,000 masks distributed across Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and Texas. The other 200,000 masks were delivered to motor carriers for their drivers, according to FMCSA.

“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Department of Transportation [has] been supporting America’s truckers during this challenging time,” FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen said in a statement April 29. “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.”

Truckers have yet to be the subject of a 10-part documentary chronicling their career highlights like Jordan got from ESPN. But remember the time when Jordan dunked from the foul line. Oh, and how about when you found what you were looking for at the supermarket.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Gov, Ralph Northam

Northam

May 12, 11 a.m.: Washington Post Live interviews Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) about the state’s response to the pandemic.

May 13, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Participants include Steven Berry, CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association; Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association; Gene Kimmelman, senior adviser at Public Knowledge; Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom — The Broadband Association.

May 14, 3 p.m.: Government Executive Media Group hosts a webcast titled, “Transitioning to Remote Work in State and Local Government.” Participants include Craig Orgeron, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services; Jon Walton, chief information officer of San Mateo County, Calif.; Tony Encinias, chief strategy and innovation officer for state and local governments at Dell Technologies; Darren Pulsipher, chief solution architect for the public sector at Intel Corporation; and Rob Silverberg, chief technology officer at Dell Technologies Digital Communities.

Freight Corridor

Beantown’s traffic congestion and the transit system’s cleanliness are being re-evaluated.

Buzz

 

 

For most observers, highway policy legislation is about highways. For several lawmakers, such legislation also is about “infrastructure resilience.”

Favorite Video

Testing. Testing. Testing.

Favorite Tweet

The long and winding road.

The Last Word

There are meatpacking plants, there are jails, and there are senior centers. And so we have task forces that focus on those three areas. If it weren’t for those three categories, the people in Texas testing positive would be very minimal.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) at the White House on May 7

Gov. Greg Abbott

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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