Adam Chiara spoke this week with Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, and Roland Bolduc, a driver with FedEx, about the challenges facing the trucking industry during the COVID-19 crisis.
While the federal government and the states have found ways to support truck drivers during the COVID-19 emergency, it’s clear that drivers are still facing challenges on the road as most of the country has hunkered down at home to avoid spreading the disease.
On March 13, the federal government took the extraordinary step of issuing a declaration suspending the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations. Restrictions like how many consecutive hours a driver can be on duty and the requirement for annual physicals for drivers have been lifted in order to minimize disruptions in the supply chain.
“That had never happened before, a nationwide declaration by the federal government in terms of responding to an emergency. That’s how big of a problem this thing is,” said Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.
And because of the closure of most restaurants and businesses, drivers are still having a hard time finding restrooms they can use and places to eat.
“The fast food industry – those restaurants – it’s kind of hard fitting [the truck] in the drive-though,” said Roland Bolduc, a driver with FedEx. “And that’s the only thing that’s open.”
To help with this problem, the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration has allowed food trucks to serve food in state-owned rest areas, which is normally not permitted under federal law.
“Connecticut was one of the first states to do that,” Sculley said. “They jumped right on it.”
Truck drivers play a crucial supply chain role across the country, delivering products like food, medicine, and household goods from factories and distribution centers to retailers. The drivers are not the ones making decisions, however, about commodities in short supply, such as toilet paper.
Bolduc said that after seeing a two-and-a-half-mile line of trucks waiting to pick up toilet paper deliveries, he thinks it is more of a consumer hoarding problem than anything else.
So when will the toilet paper be back in full supply again on the shelves?
“Things will start getting back to normal when people start acting normal,” Bolduc said.