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June 15, 2020 3:15 PM, EDT

Truckers Praised for Contributions to Country’s Economy

Elaine ChaoTransportation Secretary Elaine Chao says the nation's truckers were delivering essential supplies while the rest of the country was sheltering in place. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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Amid a global pandemic and protests around the country, national officials have been recognizing the contributions of the country’s truck drivers.

On June 3, in an interview with Politico, Elaine Chao, the nation’s top transportation officer, reiterated her sentiment of gratitude for the millions of commercial drivers and other essential transportation personnel toiling in cities and suburbs during the crises.

“While most of us were sheltering in place, there were brave truckers and others working in the transportation sector who are ensuring that essential supplies were delivered, that emergency medical equipment and supplies got to where they needed to be,” Chao told the news publication. “So I want to give a big shoutout to the truckers of this country, because they kept the supply chains open that allowed the rest of us to stay at home safely and, relatively speaking, comfortably.”

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

Chao is not alone in praising truckers at this point in time. A focus on the trucking industry, on the part of the Trump administration, with an emphasis on safety, was already in the air when the pandemic paralyzed major aspects of the economy. Many on President Donald Trump’s economic team have emphasized commercial drivers’ vital roles in sustaining the supply chains. Trump, who had celebrated the industry at the White House early into his tenure, himself highlighted truckers’ efforts during the early days of the pandemic.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats struggling to compromise on many policies, have taken time to thank truckers.

“Truck drivers played a vital role in the early response to COVID-19, keeping grocery stores stocked with supplies and transporting [personal protective equipment] and other medical equipment across the country. All the while, rest stops and restaurants across the country were closing, increasing the discomfort and challenge of doing an already difficult job,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His panel meets this week to consider a highway bill that proposes comprehensive reviews of truckers’ hours-of-service guidance.

CapAg-HighwayBill by Transport Topics on Scribd

An example of how the pandemic has disrupted truckers’ way of life is this year’s cancellation of the National Truck Driving Championships. The annual summer tournament recognizes the safest truckers in the country. The industry will need to wait until 2021 to crown its next national safety champion.

The Week Ahead (All times Eastern)

June 16, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets to hear from Joel Szabat, Trump’s nominee for the Transportation undersecretary for policy.

June 17, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce meets for a hearing titled, “Examining the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oversight of Aircraft Certification.” FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson is scheduled to testify.

June 17, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has scheduled a markup of a multiyear highway policy bill. The measure would update the 2015 FAST Act highway law.

June 17, 2 p.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a book discussion on, “Fight House: Rivalries in the White House, From Truman to Trump.”

Freight Corridor

All aboard! The Garden State announces $6 billion infrastructure upgrades to NJ Transit system.

Buzz

 

At the June 17 T&I markup, House Republicans plan to propose several major changes to Democrats’ highway bill, sources told Transport Topics.

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White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s reaction: “Where do you draw the line? Is it — should George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison be erased from history? What about [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] and his internment camps? Should he be erased from history? Or Lyndon Johnson, who has a history of documented racist statements.”

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When society fails, Chef Jose Andres is there to fill the void.

The Last Word

Let me be clear. The single most important action this Congress can take right now to support our workforce — and to provide for their safety — is to invest in our infrastructure.

Randy Guillot, American Trucking Associations chairman, on Capitol Hill on June 9

Randy Guillot

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