Unveiling the 2020 Top 100 Private Carriers List, Seth Clevenger, August 29th, 2020, 8:00 AM

The global coronavirus pandemic has tested the mettle of the largest private carriers in North America.

This historic public health crisis has disrupted supply chains and upended freight projections, forcing fleets to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.

But through all of these financial and logistical challenges, the companies on this year’s Transport Topics Top 100 Private Carriers list have been finding ways to navigate this turbulent time while ensuring that shipments continue to reach their destinations.

The implications of the pandemic have varied from one sector of the economy to the next.

Grocery retailers saw a surge in demand, especially during the early days of the outbreak when consumers rushed to stores to stock up on necessities.

In contrast, some food distributors saw business levels drop precipitously as restaurants closed their doors or converted to takeout service only.

The energy sector also has been hit hard, with the pandemic-induced slowdown combining with already depressed oil prices.

Meanwhile, many retailers experience a spike in e-commerce activity as consumers ordered more goods online from the safety of their homes rather than visiting brick-and-mortar locations. People who had been slow to embrace e-commerce became more willing to purchase a broader range of products online, including groceries and large and bulky items such as appliances. This expansion of e-commerce likely will remain even after the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided.

And across all industry sectors, private fleets implemented new business processes and safety protocols to reduce physical contact and help protect employees and customers from the virus.

Amid the disruption wrought by the pandemic, some private carriers expanded their fleets while others shed equipment.

The Top 100 list, which ranks private carriers on the basis of total tractors in operation, reflects several interesting changes this year.

At the top of the rankings, Walmart Inc. climbed back into the top 3, right behind No. 1 PepsiCo Inc. and No. 2 Sysco.

Checking in at No. 10 is a new name on the list, NexTier Oilfield Solutions. The Houston-based oil field services company formed in October 2019 through the merger of C&J Energy Services and Keane Group. In March, the combined company went on to sell its well services business unit to Basic Energy Services, which ranks No. 13 on the Top 100.

Several private carriers made noteworthy moves up the rankings.

Equipment rental firm Sunbelt Rentals, based in Fort Mill, S.C., rose to No. 16, from No. 24 a year ago, with its fleet of 1,589 tractors.

Univar Solutions, a chemical and ingredient distributor, also made a significant move up the list. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based company climbed to No. 21, from No. 36 last year, with a fleet of 1,372 heavy-duty trucks.

And Medline Inc., a provider of medical supplies based in Northfield, Ill., jumped to No. 49, from No. 85 a year ago, with its fleet of 791 tractors.

Newcomers to the Top 100 this year include No. 84 Stallion Oilfield Services, a Houston-based provider of auxiliary rentals and services for oil and gas operations. The company’s fleet includes 502 tractors.

Warehouse store operator Costco Wholesale Corp. enters the rankings at No. 87. The Issaquah, Wash.-based company operates 484 tractors.

Also joining the Top 100 this year are arts-and-crafts store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., which ranks No. 98 with 415 tractors, and auto parts provider O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, which checks in at No. 99 with 413 heavy-duty trucks.

Another newcomer, No. 100 Dunkin’ Brands Group, rounds out the list with its fleet of 397 tractors, which help supply franchise locations serving coffee, baked goods and ice cream.

Carriers Get Extension to Rid Systems of Chinese Technologies, Eric Miller, August 19th, 2020, 4:15 PM

The Director of National Intelligence has extended the deadline to Sept. 30 for a requirement that motor carriers that do business with the federal government locate and purge telecommunications equipment manufactured by five Chinese companies that may be in use in their operations.

The waiver was granted in response to a request by Ellen Lord, the Department of Defense’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment, who had argued that a waiver to extend the deadline is in the country’s national security interest.

The companies believed to be potential hackers into U.S. intelligence and defense agencies’ information systems are Huawei, ZTE Corp., Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua Technology. The provision also covers any subsidiary or affiliate of the entities, but experts warn that the technologies targeted could be difficult to locate in complex modern corporate systems.

The requirement, included in the 2019 Defense Authorization Act, requires federal government contractors to rid their companies of prohibited components manufactured by the five companies.

“I am granting a temporary waiver under section 889(d)(2) until 30 September 2020 to allow the Department of Defense to continue its contracting activities that would otherwise be prohibited under section 889(a)(l)(B) and to provide additional information to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to further assess your waiver request,” John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence, wrote in an Aug. 12 memo to Lord.

The original deadline was Aug. 13.

“Section 889 [of the law] seeks to prevent certain Chinese technology companies from accessing sensitive and classified information by tapping into devices they designed,” said Bill Wanamaker, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Government Freight Conference. “All federal contractors, including all modes of freight carriers, have electronic systems that facilitate business processes and operate their equipment.”

Several trade organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ATA, have for several months been on a letter-writing campaign and engaging congressional staff to extend the compliance date by at least one year.

The law pressures federal contractors of every kind to make a determination on compliance by Sept. 30, or risk noncompliance and possible debarment as a contractor if they cannot ensure the components are not present in their systems, Wanamaker said.

Freight logistics services, including trucking, rely heavily on vast information technology systems, according to an ATA analysis.

“This corporate IT inventory is used to order freight, schedule service, provide in-transit visibility to customers, provide proof of delivery, invoice shippers, support electronic shipping documents and pay by third-party payment systems,” the analysis said. “Motor carriers also use typical office computers, networks, internet service providers, routers, portable computers and scanners, cellphones, security systems, and video monitoring of terminals and warehouses.”

ATA’s analysis also noted that cameras are used for 360-degree video recording around trucks to replace rearview mirrors and that “electronic monitoring of engines, transmissions, braking systems, tire pressure, speed, sudden braking, driver fatigue — all these things are a part of modern commercial motor vehicles.”

The newer the truck, the more IT systems are on the truck for safety, equipment management, tracking and maintenance monitoring, according to the analysis.

Tonnage Decline 8.5% Year-Over-Year in July, ATA Index Shows

www.ttnews, Dan Ronan, August 18, 2020, 1:00 PM

Truck tonnage in July declined a seasonally adjusted 8.3% when compared with year-ago levels, and on a monthly basis was down 5.1% from June, American Trucking Associations reported Aug. 18.

The 8.3% drop is the fourth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline.

In July, the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index equaled 109.6, compared with June’s 115.5. (In calculating the index, 100 equals the year 2015.)

“After a very strong June, for-hire contract freight tonnage, which dominates ATA’s index, slipped in July for a couple of reasons,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “It is likely that tonnage was down because many fleets didn’t have the capacity to take advantage of stronger retail freight volumes. Therefore, much of that overflow freight moved to the spot market, which did increase in July.”

Costello said another factor in the decline in tonnage is that the industry is contracting slightly, and there is less available excess capacity.

“Other ATA data shows that for-hire truckload fleets are operating 3% fewer trucks this summer than a year earlier, so it can be difficult to take on a significant amount of additional freight,” he said. “Also, while retail volumes have snapped back strongly, manufacturing output and international trade freight is lagging well behind.”

Confirming Costello’s statement on spot market rates, the DAT Truckload Volume Index released Aug. 13 showed the surge continues across all equipment types. DAT Freight and Analytics operates the industry’s largest online marketplace for spot truckload freight.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected $791.7 billion, or 80.4% of the total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA said that despite July’s decrease, its index was 3.3% above May’s recent low. June’s index was revised slightly, up 8.9% over May from the 8.7% reported July 21.

Meanwhile, the latest Trucking Conditions Index, released July 31 from FTR Intelligence, which tracked the state of the trucking industry through June 30, reached 11.35. That figure is the highest in a decade, and it comes just two months after a record-low April reading of minus 28.66.

Avery Vise, FTR vice president for trucking, told Transport Topics he is not surprised by the volatility in the industry because of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There have been some significant movements over the past four months or so and likely will be for several months to come,” Vise said. “However, it is unclear how long the positive factors affecting the June reading — a combination of higher utilization and strong growth in freight demand and rates — will remain in place.”

The latest FTR report and one from the Cass Freight Index Report for the same period confirmed the deep hole the U.S. economy slid into during the second quarter.

Gross domestic product shrank a record-setting 32.9% in April, May and June, tracking closely with economists’ expectations of how the COVID-19 outbreak impacted the economy during the early months of the pandemic.

The Cass Index, specifically for shipments, registered 0.971 — down 17.8% year-over-year. However, month-over-month, the index climbed 3.5% when compared with May.

“The Cass Freight Index showed sequential volume improvement again in June, although freight volumes remain well below year-ago levels and also below pre-pandemic levels. We were thinking the June rebound would have been stronger, based on what we’re hearing,” the report said. “In our view, U.S. freight volumes (the amount of ‘stuff’ moving around the country) will not return to 2019 levels until 2021 at the earliest. Given the most recent Cass readings, there is still a wide gap to bridge.”

The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, refrigerated and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, rose 2.1% from June and was 3.7% higher than July 2019.

Van, reefer and flatbed volumes and rates ended up positive month-over-month.

In its latest report, DAT said spot rates have steadily increased since May for van, flatbed and reefer. Van rates are up from $1.60 per mile to $2.19 a mile in August. Flatbed rates increased from $1.90 to $2.27 a mile, and reefer rates climbed from $2.03 to $2.42 a mile.

DAT says capacity is loosening, but rates still were moving upward Aug. 10-16.

“Nationally, capacity loosened last week, as evidenced by the lower load-to-truck ratios on the DAT One load board network last week,” the analysis said. “Spot rates remain elevated, though, with a majority of high-traffic lanes seeing higher prices for truckload freight when compared with the previous week.”

CVSA’S International Roadcheck Rescheduled for Sept. 9-11, Eric Miller, August 10, 2020, 5:45 PM

The postponed International Roadcheck event has been rescheduled for Sept. 9-11, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance announced Aug. 10.

CVSA officials postponed the event in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although the coronavirus pandemic understandably shifted priorities and personnel during the spring, the commercial motor vehicle law enforcement community has reasserted its focus on the roadside inspection program and enforcement duties,” CVSA President Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police said in a statement. “Jurisdictions are nearly back to their pre-pandemic capacity with a strengthened concentration on identifying and removing unfit vehicles and drivers from our roadways using federal safety standards and the out-of-service criteria.”

International Roadcheck is a 72-hour stepped-up visibility inspection and enforcement initiative by CVSA-certified inspectors in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., conducting motor vehicle and driver inspections at weigh or inspection stations, designated fixed locations or as part of roving mobile patrols.

During the three-day time frame, law enforcement personnel inspect commercial motor vehicles for compliance with federal regulations and utilize the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria to identify critical inspection item violations.

Each year, International Roadcheck places special emphasis on a category of violations. This year’s focus is on the driver requirements component of a roadside inspection. Of the approximately 3.36 million inspections during 2019, 952,938 driver violations were discovered, of which 199,722 were out-of-service conditions.

For the driver portion of an inspection, the inspector will collect and verify the driver’s documents, identify the motor carrier, examine the driver’s license, check record of duty status and review periodic inspection reports. If applicable, the inspector will check the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate and the driver’s daily vehicle inspection report. Inspectors also will check drivers for seat belt usage, illness, fatigue, and apparent alcohol or drug possession or impairment.

Drivers found to be operating without the proper driver credentials, in possession of or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, operating while ill, fatigued or showing other signs of impairment, or in violation of hours-of-service rules may be placed out of service.

The vehicle portion of an inspection includes checking critical vehicle inspection items such as brake systems, cargo securement, coupling devices, drive-line/drive-shaft components, driver’s seat (missing), exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, lighting devices, steering mechanisms, suspensions, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels, rims and hubs, and windshield wipers.

If an inspector identifies critical inspection item violations, the inspector will place the vehicle out of service, which will require it to be restricted from traveling until the violations are corrected.

In the U.S., commercial motor vehicle inspections are conducted to check for vehicle and driver compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In Canada, the standards are based on the National Safety Code and various provincial/territorial regulations, while in Mexico, Normas Oficiales Mexicanas are the commercial motor vehicle regulations and standards.

During International Roadcheck, inspectors primarily conduct the North American Standard Level I Inspection, a 37-step procedure that includes two main inspection categories and an examination of driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness. A third category, hazardous materials/dangerous goods, may also be part of a Level I Inspection.

International Roadcheck is a CVSA program with participation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Transport Canada, and the Secretaríade Comunicaciones y Transportes, or Ministry of Communications and Transportation of Mexico.

DOD Re-Awards $7.2 Billion Household Goods Moving Contract

Transport Topics, Eric Miller, July 22, 2020, 11:30 AM

The Department of Defense has re-awarded a $7.2 billion household goods moving contract just two weeks after it had pledged to take corrective action on the contested award by two competitors.

In a statement, the military said the re-award for the potential $20 billion contract came after a protest had alleged that the award winner, American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier Group (ARC) of Parsippany, N.J., had failed to disclose that its parent corporation pleaded guilty to fraud and anti-trust violations, and that three of its owner’s executives were convicted of price fixing.

“The Department of Justice confirmed ARC and its parent company, Wallenius Wilhelmsen ASA, were not part of the 2016 conviction for Sherman Anti-Trust violations,” Transcom said in a statement. “A separate company with a similar name, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS, was convicted.”

Transcom oversees moves for members of all military services and DOD civilians.

The sweeping contract is intended to address military families’ long-standing problems with delays and damaged goods during the estimated 400,000 annual moves to assignments around the globe, Transcom officials said.

ARC originally was awarded the contract April 30.

Transcom said that after extensive independent review, it determined that the corporate misconduct was not affiliated with ARC nor its parent company.

In 2016, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS pleaded guilty to Sherman Anti-Trust violations and paid more than $98 million in fines after three company executives were indicted. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS has no ownership or control over ARC and is a separate corporate entity, the military said.

“During its proposal submission, ARC erroneously listed WWLAS, instead of WWASA, as corporate owner in the pull-down menus of the Government’s System of Award Management,” Transcom said. “It appeared to the protester that ARC failed to meet Federal Acquisition Regulation disclosure requirements when, in actuality, the true parent company was misidentified.”

Minor errors are not grounds for disqualification, Transcom said. “Since neither ARC, nor its parent company WWASA, have a record of misconduct, Transcom substantiated its original award to ARC because its proposal provided the best service for the best value for service members, Department of Defense civilians and their families.”

“Team ARC remains committed to our proposal to provide exceptional customer service to Transcom and the service members,” Eric Ebeling, CEO of ARC, said in a statement. “We look forward to getting started on GHC.”

However, the contract will be held up for up to 100 days as the U.S. Government Accountability Office investigates protests of the re-award by HomeSafe Alliance and Connected Global Solutions.

“U.S. Transcom’s decision to re-award the Global Household Goods Contract in light of the serious issues raised is extremely disappointing,” HomeSafe Alliance CEO Al Thompson said. “We are confident GAO will agree that errors have been made on a major contract that touches every member of the armed forces and their families.”

He added, “HomeSafe Alliance filed an initial protest to the GAO following Transcom’s original decision on April 30. The protest included nine points challenging numerous issues with the winning bid, including a flawed technical evaluation process and extremely misleading contract discussions between bidders and Transcom.”

A message seeking comment from Connected Global Solutions was not returned at press time.

Transcom’s global household goods contract is a major aspect of a broader DOD reform plan to improve the relocation process for DOD families, and integrates functions currently performed by hundreds of commercial entities.

“It will improve access to, and management of, quality capacity to meet peak demand and enable the department to affix the accountability and responsibility lacking in today’s program,” DOD said.

Consumer Brands Spearheads Contactless Delivery Task Force, Connor Wolf, July 9, 2020, 2:30 PM

A task force was launched that brings together manufacturers, supply chain partners and retailers to develop standards for reducing human contact when moving freight from Class 8 vehicles to last-mile drop-offs.

The Consumer Brands Association on June 29 launched the Contactless Delivery Task Force to create protocols to ensure delivery processes are safer and more efficient.

“Everyone is very concerned about how do we keep our employees safe, how do we keep things moving efficiently in a high demand environment,” Tom Madrecki, vice president of supply chains at the Consumer Brands Association, told Transport Topics on July 7. “But that issue of safety continues to percolate and continues to be very relevant.”

The task force will specifically study and create contactless pickup and delivery protocols with the aim of being more efficient and reducing employee risk. It has been growing since its launch and now includes 25 consumer packaged goods companies and retailers.

“We’re really looking at how do we reduce human interaction so that we can continue to facilitate the movement of goods and services,” Madrecki said. “A lot of companies raised the need for contactless deliveries mechanisms or tools.”

The task force was born from the impact and lessons of the coronavirus. The ongoing pandemic challenged consumer packaged goods companies to keep their supply chains moving efficiently while reducing contact to ensure employee safety.

Land O’Lakes is one such company and is now a partner on the task force.

“While a major disruptor, COVID-19 now gives us the opportunity to partner across our industry and develop the processes and procedures that will define the consumer packaged goods space for years to come,” Yone Dewberry, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer at Land O’Lakes, said in a statement. “Health, safety and efficiency have always been our priorities, but now we’re forced to look for new and innovative ways of incorporating technology even further.”

The coronavirus has been driving the need to limit in-person interactions beyond the task force. DHL Express, for instance, has been working to balance social distancing and meeting the needs of customers.

“Technology has played a key role in maintaining our business and implementing processes that allow for social distancing and minimize person-to-person contact,” Pamela Duque, communications manager at DHL, told TT. “We’re also holding virtual meetings and webinars with our customers and employees, and have implemented remote payment via our On Demand Delivery platform, through which customers can also choose their delivery options. Until further notice, we have waived the requirement for a recipient signature when delivering parcels.”

DHL Supply Chain ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies in North America.

The task force has looked at digitization as a path forward. Partner companies found electronic delivery verification was a natural solution to keeping their supply chains moving efficiently. The task force is first looking at electronic bills of lading (eBOL) processes but plans to branch out.

“We specifically looked at that as the first bite of the apple when it comes to contactless deliveries and how do we remove paperwork and the physical process from deliveries,” Madrecki said. “But there are clearly other applications.”

Madrecki noted the standards the task force is looking at involve the physical side of the delivery process as well as the more technical side such as information and data sharing. To that end, the task force also includes technology companies such as Accenture, Coyote Logistics and Vector.

“As shippers continue to build more efficient and resilient supply chains, the eBOL fills in a gap that many clients have been asking for,” Henry Blum, senior manager at Accenture, said in a statement. “The touchless BOL will result in entry error reduction, increased visibility to OS&Ds, drive lower transportation costs and benefit their green footprint.”

Madrecki noted the underlining mechanisms that would enable a company to have an eBOL solution are very similar to the mechanisms that would allow them to have other solutions in different types of environments. It’s all an electronic transfer of information.

“If we can work in a concerted way to provide a workable standard for that, then there are clearly other applications to other parts of the delivery ecosystem,” Madrecki said. “It can definitely open up into a lot of different directions.”

Infrastructure Stakeholders Press Senators for Testing, PPE Priority, Eugene Mulero, June 9, 2020, 1:15 PM

A coalition that includes freight stakeholders and myriad transportation interests is calling on senators to advance legislation that would prioritize testing for critical infrastructure workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

American Trucking Associations is among the groups pushing for approval of the measure, which would direct federal authorities to also assist state agencies in facilitating access to personal protective equipment for certain infrastructure personnel assigned to the front lines during the health crisis.

“This type of investment in our frontline heroes is an investment in our nation’s long-term well-being because essential critical infrastructure workers are leading our nation’s response and recovery efforts on the ground,” ATA Chairman Randy Guillot said during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing June 3. Guillot is president of Louisiana-based Triple G Express Inc. and Southeastern Motor Freight.

“Keeping our frontline transportation workers healthy is how we ensure that grocery stores remain stocked, medical supplies remain available in urban and rural communities, and how we maintain critical infrastructure viability,” Guillot continued.

The freight rail industry added its voice in support for the measure.

Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies told senators at the same hearing that employees across the rail sector, as well as other essential critical infrastructure workers, “should be given elevated priority access to COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, sanitizers, nonmedical-grade facial coverings and other health-related or protective supplies so that essential goods can keep moving.”

Alex Oehler, interim president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, added: “We are grateful for the joint efforts of federal, state and local agencies to date, and it is important that this coordination continues in the months to come as stay-at-home orders and similar restrictions are loosened, which could create a surge in demand for necessary supplies.”

Oehler continued, “Of course, patients, health care workers and first responders should always be first in line to receive this equipment.”

“Keeping our frontline transportation workers healthy is how we ensure that grocery stores remain stocked, medical supplies remain available in urban and rural communities, and how we maintain critical infrastructure viability.”

ATA Chairman Randy Guillot

The American Association of Port Authorities also expressed support for the legislation.

Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) led the bill’s introduction in May. The Critical Infrastructure Employees Protection Act would specifically require the U.S. Department of Transportation to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in supporting state agencies’ efforts of providing testing and equipment for the frontline infrastructure workforce. Besides prioritizing personal protective equipment, the workforce would have priority access to sanitizers, nonmedical-grade facial coverings and health-related or protective supplies.

“We are grateful for the many frontline workers who have shown remarkable resilience and resourcefulness to help deliver critical care, services and supplies to those in need,” Wicker told stakeholders at the June 3 hearing. The panel has jurisdiction over freight policy. “The transportation sector has countless numbers of these unsung heroes.”

Other Senate sponsors include Commerce Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), as well as Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). The measure has yet to be scheduled for consideration.

A recent House-passed $3 trillion pandemic relief package included $15 billion for transportation agencies.

“As this unprecedented health and economic crisis continues to wreak havoc on workers, families and communities across our country, Congress must continue to step up with big, bold measures to blunt the worst of its effects,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said on May 15. “I’m especially focused on making sure the federal government helps protect frontline transportation workers and those who still must travel with clear and consistent policies on personal protective equipment that will help stop the spread of this insidious virus.”

FMCSA Extends,Modifies HOS Emergency Declaration, Eleanor Lamb, June 9th, 2020, 3:45 PM

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended and modified its emergency declaration for motor carriers that are providing direct assistance in support of coronavirus-related relief efforts.

The agency announced June 8 that the modified declaration will take effect June 15 and remain in place through July 14. This modification scales back some of the trucking operations that were covered under the earlier exemption, which previously was extended through June 14. The initial emergency declaration was issued March 13, and then expanded March 18.

Like its previous iterations, the declaration applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It continues the exemption from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which cover hours of service, parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles.

The modified emergency declaration allows regulatory relief for drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts related to the virus and is limited to transportation of:

  •  Livestock and livestock feed.
  •  Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
  •  Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.

Direct assistance refers to transportation and relief services provided by a carrier or its drivers associated with the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies related to COVID-19. According to FMCSA’s notice, direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads “with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.”

The previous versions of the emergency declaration stipulated relief for a wider variety of goods, including fuel, raw materials, paper products and groceries.

“FMCSA has concluded that there is no longer a need for emergency relief with respect to the other categories of supplies, equipment and persons covered by the May 13 extension and expansion of [the] emergency declaration, and those categories are therefore no longer covered,” the emergency declaration document states.

FMCSA emphasized that the emergency declaration does not grant drivers relief from regulations such as speed limits. Drivers are not exempt from requirements relating to commercial driver licenses, drugs and alcohol, hazardous materials, and size and weight requirements.

Motor carriers cannot require or allow a fatigued driver to operate a truck. A driver who informs a carrier that he or she needs immediate rest must be given at least 10 consecutive hours before returning to service.

House, Senate Lawmakers Propose Essential Workers Fund, Eugene Mulero, May 26, 2020, 4:00 PM

Legislation that would compensate essential workers who became ill or died from COVID-19 while performing their services was recently introduced by Senate Democrats.

The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would establish a fund for those who qualify, such as certain individuals who were required to provide products or services deemed essential during the pandemic.

A summary detailing the bill’s provisions indicated that funds would be appropriated for five years, as needed, to assist with medical costs, loss of employment or business, and burial costs. Also a website would be set up to facilitate with the application process.

Claimants would need to provide information about the extent of their loss, and eligible individuals would receive compensation no later than 20 days after their approval, according to the bill. Family members at home with such essential workers who then became sick through contact also would be eligible.

The legislation has not been scheduled for debate on the floor of the Senate by Republican leaders. The bill was modeled after a fund for individuals whose health was affected by the response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Our essential workers risk their health and their lives daily to keep us safe,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said May 21. She is a bill sponsor. “From the beginning of this crisis, they have been serving on the front lines, getting sick, and some unfortunately are dying. Essential workers stepped up for our country; now Congress needs to step up for them.

“The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act will provide a critical fund to ensure our nation’s heroes and their families receive the resources they need. I am proud to support this important bill in the Senate, and I will work with my colleagues to ensure it becomes law.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), also a sponsor, said, “These heroes on the front line vary widely in jobs from health care professionals and first responders to grocery store employees, delivery drivers, janitorial staff and transit workers. What they have in common is clearly uncommon courage and dedication.

“Front-line workers continue to put their lives on the line, and they and their families deserve more than platitudes; they’ve earned full, fair compensation for the risks they’ve taken on our behalf.”

Other sponsors in the Senate include Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

A version of the legislation had been introduced in the House. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, a sponsor, noted: “In this fight against the coronavirus, it is the first responders, retail workers, transit workers, grocery store clerks, delivery workers, janitorial staff, sanitation workers, mail carriers, hospitality workers, and federal, state and local employees who are on the front lines, walking into the fire every day as they risk their health to make sure we are safe, fed and healthy.”

Other House sponsors include New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D) and Peter King (R).

“America will be forever indebted to the first responders and essential workers who put their lives on the line throughout this pandemic,” King added.

The measure is backed by groups representing firefighters, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

“Our members are heroes moving heroes, and we walk into harm’s way every day,” said Anthony Simon, general chairman/Alt International vice president at SMART Transportation Division. “We take pride in our jobs and our country. The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act shows that our [New York] delegation is not only about the words. It is about action.”

Senate Committee Advances FMCSA Safety Grants Bill, Eugene Mulero, May 20, 2020, 4:30 PM

Legislation aimed at facilitating financial assistance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was easily approved by a Senate panel on May 20.

The Motor Carrier Safety Grant Relief Act of 2020 would provide FMCSA the authority to reallocate unspent grants from fiscal 2019 and 2020 to the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, or MCSAP.

Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a sponsor, explained the bill gives states an extra year to spend certain funds awarded for fiscal 2019 and 2020. He added it would allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to distribute unallocated funds.

Safety Fmcsa by Transport Topics on Scribd

“This would ensure that state and local law enforcement do not lose funding unnecessarily as they continue their frontline work responding to this pandemic,” the chairman said during the bill’s consideration.

Added Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, “This legislation would provide more flexibility for states to spend grant money designated for commercial vehicle enforcement.”

Other sponsors include Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, as well as Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The committee also advanced legislation that would require a joint task force to examine safety and efficiency of air travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the bill states the task force “shall develop plans, guidelines and recommended requirements to address the logistical, health, safety and security issues relating to the continued operation of air travel.”

Senate Republican leaders who manage legislation on the floor have yet to announce when they would take up the bills. They have signaled the potential for including such policy measures in either coronavirus economic aid legislation or must-pass government funding bills. A focus on the coronavirus response has dominated debates on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2021 budget request proposes allocating $403 million for Motor Carrier Safety Grants. According to background from the administration, the grants are designed to dedicate funding to “eligible states to conduct compliance reviews, identify and apprehend traffic violators, conduct roadside inspections and support safety audits on new entrant carriers.”

On the House side, policymakers have yet to consider their version. Pertaining to the safety of the supply chain, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced they would continue to explore the administration’s efforts to procure and coordinate shipments of personal protective equipment where there are high or increased cases of COVID-19.

House policymakers also indicated they would examine “how the administration is working with commercial distributors, and the extent to which the federal government is relying on private supply chains versus playing a more proactive role in decisions related to distribution of supplies.”

On May 14, FMCSA announced a final rule to allow more flexibility for the 30-minute rest break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using “on-duty, not driving” status, rather than “off-duty” status.

“America’s truckers have been on the front lines in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and these regulatory improvements to help them do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible come at a critical time. These improvements to hours-of-service rules won’t increase driving time, but they recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not give drivers the necessary flexibility to make the right decisions to safely operate their vehicles,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I applaud [Transportation] Secretary [Elaine] Chao and the Trump administration’s continued commitment to improving the regulations in a manner that benefits workers, the flow of commerce, and the safety of our transportation system.”