Interstate 81

Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association is asking federal authorities and President Donald Trump for assistance to make their jobs easier.

FOR those of you who took refuge in your homes last week, traffic in the area was down significantly, making even rush-hour driving seem like a tiny slice of heaven for those who ventured into this brave new world.

With most commuters apparently either taking off or teleworking last week, Interstate 95 seemed like it was on a semi-holiday (from traffic, not accommodating holiday travelers). Rush-hour traffic seemed to tail off in a big way regionally, in the mornings and evenings.

Traffic was also light on the express lanes, with toll prices dropping to uncommon lows, hovering in the $3 range in rush-hour periods that often draw tolls at least five times that amount, at least in the evenings.

Even in what are clearly odd times, light traffic, low tolls and plummeting gas prices can make a person wonder what’s so bad about this virus?

But, as we know, things aren’t always as they seem.

There’s the obvious downside: People are getting sick and dying, leading to pain and suffering and drastic measures that could lead to drastic societal changes. So there’s that.

But there also are underlying effects caused by the virus, and in one respect the impacts are happening to a crucial facet of our world. Take the transportation system that is not on holiday, not by any stretch of the imagination: freight haulers.

The people who make it possible for hoarders to clear grocery shelves of toilet paper, and who will hopefully replenish those stocks soon, are working double-time to keep the nation stocked and running as the virus disrupts everything.

Truckers are a major facet of the freight system and are still doing plenty of hauling on the nation’s roads. They are asking for the government’s help—not cash handouts, but instead a little help making their job easier and more humane.

The Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a letter on Friday to federal authorities and President Trump seeking action to make their jobs easier.

“Like your administration, truckers are working extremely hard to help the nation persevere through this unprecedented emergency,” wrote Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the association. “The U.S. Department of Transportation has already taken significant steps to facilitate the efficient movement of essential freight across the country, but additional steps are now necessary.”

Spencer provided a list of ways truckers could be helped:

Offer more parking by keeping rest areas open while also offering weigh stations, inspection sites and other areas for drivers to rest while they work overtime to replenish supplies.

Temporarily stop weighing vehicles hauling emergency freight.

Extend expiring commercial driver’s licenses and postpone random drug testing.

In closing, Spencer, asked that authorities offer easy testing sites for freight workers. He also pleaded with them to convince companies receiving supplies to stop refusing use of restroom facilities where drivers make deliveries. The companies, he said, defend the practice by claiming they are thwarting the spread of the virus.

“These claims,” Spencer wrote, “are both counterproductive and insulting.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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