Trucker advocacy group fights for rights of truckers during the pandemic

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Truckers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic traveling across the country to make sure shelves are stocked and packages are delivered on time. One advocacy organization is asking for federal officials to help make it easier for truckers to get their jobs done.

Trucker advocacy group the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is asking the federal government to ease restrictions to help truck drivers during the pandemic. (Source: Gray DC)

"Truck drivers, regardless of how people feel about it, is the lifeline of this country," said Hank Brazeal, an owner-operator with Landstar.

Brazeal is spending his nights making sure Americans stay stocked up on supplies while they stay home. Recently, Brazeal has been transporting loads for Amazon.

He clocks in roughly 570 miles during his night shift, driving down toward San Antonio to pick up a load at an Amazon facility and then driving to Fort Worth to drop it off at a UPS Distribution Center.

Brazeal already lost a trucker friend to coronavirus. He knows the risks of working during the pandemic, and government red tape makes it even more challenging.

"I've got a lot of friends that are getting their trucks booted when they try and park somewhere," said Brazeal.

Trucker advocacy organization Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, wants to help Brazeal and others have easier travels.

"Trucking is very challenging under normal circumstances, and right now, it's even worse," said Mike Matousek, the government affairs manager at OOIDA.

In a letter dated March 20 to President Trump, the association asked the federal government to ease restrictions and requirements for issues like driving hours, parking facilities and license requirements. They're also pushing to increase access for drivers to wash their hands or just get a hot meal.

"We've seen good stories, but we're also hearing a lot of bad things where facilities are just treating drivers awful," said Matousek.

Matousek feels the federal government is starting to listen to the needs of the trucking industry, but they have to do more to ensure truckers have access to PPE like masks and gloves.

"The ironic thing is a lot of our members are hauling this stuff, yet they can't buy it," said Matousek.

Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in an April 16 statement the administration is providing regulatory relief and ensuring improved access to food and rest stops.

Chao also said many smaller trucking firms are receiving aid through the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief legislation.

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