The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wants Congress to take action to help truckers during COVID-19.
 - Photo: Jim Park

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wants Congress to take action to help truckers during COVID-19.

Photo: Jim Park

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is continuing its push the federal government to address the needs of truck drivers and small-business trucking companies as they struggle with the many challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its most recent letter to leaders of Congress, on May 13, OOIDA outlined steps it said need to be taken to help small-business truck drivers remain viable.

In the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, OOIDA wrote, “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, small-business truckers have been risking their lives to deliver critical supplies to communities across the country,” but that since the initial surge in demand has subsided and demand and freight rates have plummeted, “many now face significant economic challenges that threaten the viability of their business.”

The letter asked Congress to address unscrupulous brokers and freight rates by:

  • Requiring automatic electronic disclosure of broker transactions. Under 49 CFR 371.3, brokers are required to maintain records related to transactions with motor carriers, including how much each party is paid for their services, but in reality, OOIDA alleges, brokers make it nearly impossible to obtain those records.
  • Take steps to remedy long-time problems with broker bonds so motor carriers are fully compensated for their work when brokers do not pay them.
  • Allow current weight exemptions put in place by many states to address the need for COVID-19 relief loads to expire, since the industry is now in an overcapacity situation.

Another area addressed in the letter is improving Small Business Administration assistance and the PPP loan program. OOIDA asked Congress to:

  • Allow trucking companies to include truck payments, insurance payments, and depreciation when calculating the maximum PPP loan amount.
  • Make the IRS reverse its decision not allowing PPP recipients to deduct expenses paid for with forgivable loan proceeds
  • Fix problems with loan processing
  • Provide additional funding for the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and ensure that all eligible small businesses can apply.

“There’s confusion and inconsistency among lenders in how they’re handling processing, applications,” as well as misinformation, OOIDA spokesperson Norita Taylor told HDT in an interview, referring to the PPP loans. Lenders “may not know anything about trucking, and why it’s important for small-business truckers to have access. Most of the industry is made up of small-business trucking companies [that are] way smaller than what the rest of the world considers a small business.”

The association also also asked Congress to address truck driver pay by repealing the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime exemption for truck drivers and “provide hazard pay for drivers working during the emergency period.”

The letter called for suspending the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax and Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) Fees for 2020, and to combat the truck parking crisis by enacting H.R. 6104, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act.

Latest in a Series of Letters

This is not the first time OOIDA has called upon Congress and the White House to address COVID-19 related problems faced by truckers. Since March, several letters have covered many of the issues addressed in this latest letter, such as the PPP loans.

Early letters addressed issues with truck parking as some states shut down rest areas, or left them open but closed restrooms.

Letters also have called upon the government to address the issues truck drivers have been facing on the road during COVID-19. The association has asked the government to provide more COVID-19 testing and protective equipment at weigh stations and rest areas

  • A March 20 letter to President Trump asked the administration to address parking, asked for hours-of-service rules to be lifted for all loads instead of just relief loads, asked that roadside inspections be suspended, asked for a 90-day extension of expiring CLDs and medical cards as well as random drug testing. It also asked that the federal government work with the logistics community to ensure truckers have access to restrooms at shipper and receiver facilities, and to help ensure drivers have access to virus testing.
  • An April 6 letter to Congressional leaders asked for Congress to pass the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, to push the rule modernizing hours-of-service regulations, to address the problem of excessive detention time through financial incentives and collecting data on detention at specific facilities, repeal the FLSA overtime exemption, waive the HVUT, and avoid any permanent changes to weight limits.
  • An April 14 letter to Congressional members heading up small business committees outlined many of the same issues with the PPP and Emergency EIDL Program as in this week’s letter.
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