November-December 2020

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PalletCentral • November-December 2020 25 W hen the COVID-19 virus reached the U.S. this spring, and as the pandemic currently continues to surge across the country, the people and businesses that were flexible are the ones that are succeeding. In the trucking industry, we pride ourselves on being flexible, on being able to adapt to and overcome whatever challenge is put in our way, but that was really put to the test, especially in those early days of the pandemic. People panicked, unsure of what to do and how best to protect themselves and their families. Businesses closed and leaders put out confusing and, in many times, counterproductive orders. Soon we repeatedly saw news stories about shortages of essentials at the market, but our industry was determined to help Americans overcome that. At the American Trucking Associations, we got to work. We worked with the Department of Homeland Security to secure "essential" status for our industry – making sure that our drivers could still do the critical job of delivering food, fuel, medicine and other essentials as our country began locking down. We worked with state and local governments to ensure that truck drivers on the road could have access to important facilities like restrooms and food while on the road so they could keeping doing their jobs while remaining healthy and safe. And we worked with all levels of government to make sure we had flexibility in these unprecedented times. That started at the federal level, when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted hours-of-service relief for truckers moving a myriad of products critical to fighting the virus. These types of waivers are common in the wake of a major disaster like a hurricane, but this is the first time they've been used for a national emergency like this. With offices – included licensing offices like departments of motor vehicles – shuttered, we worked to get flexibility for drivers who saw their CDLs expire during the pandemic. Just this small bit of flexibility has been important to keeping drivers on the road. As we learned more about the virus and how it works, we've shifted our focus at ATA to ensuring our workforce stay healthy. Trucking is a people- driven industry, and nothing is more important to us than keeping our people safe. We helped our members get more than 150,000 face coverings at a time when they were becoming scarce. And we partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to distribute 1.5 million more face coverings across the country. We procured more than 1,100 gallons of hand sanitizer and stationed them along major freight corridors for drivers to replenish their personal supplies, free of charge. Making sure that our industry keeps moving is a big part of how we're going to get our country back moving. Recovery – whether it is economic or medical – is going to ride in the back of a truck. And there have been issues beyond COVID, where flexibility has been key for our industry. This year, despite the impact of the pandemic, FMCSA issued long-awaited updates to the hours- of-service rules. After two years, significant debate and a lot of analysis of data, FMCSA made several common sense changes to rules, giving drivers more flexibility and control over their schedules while maintaining this critical safety standard. This is important for our industry, especially in these times, to help us retain drivers. Retaining and recruiting drivers is a challenge for our industry, especially before the pandemic struck. With a persistent shortage of drivers, we have to be more creative and flexible about where we find drivers. That's why ATA has backed the Drive SAFE Act – bipartisan legislation that would allow drivers under the age of 21 to drive trucks across state lines. Today, these young people are free to haul freight, provided they don't cross into another state. So an 18-year-old driver can drive the hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia without a problem, but is barred from driving the half-dozen miles from Philly to Camden, New Jersey. This simply doesn't make any sense. Thankfully, members of both parties, as well as federal regulators, agree and pilot programs are on Flexibility has been an important thing in trucking this year, and really for all of us.

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