Commercial Drivers Recognized as Essential Workers
One thing is certain as we summarize our impressions on 2020 – it will be forever linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just in the USA, but all over the globe. It’s not the first time we recognize our drivers as “Heroes of the road” (we’ve done so very early this year in our March article, which you can find here), however, this one comes straight from President Donald Trump.
Trump recognized commercial drivers during a ceremony at the White House. Truck drivers had an essential role in delivering supplies to hospitals, supermarkets, and elsewhere – and were praised for doing so. This trend will never cease, as we’re all aware we’re relying on those people to be a bloodline of our whole nation.
“American truckers are the foot soldiers who are really carrying us to victory,” Trump said, “They’ve done an incredible job.”
Joining him were the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and the president of American Trucking Associations, Chris Spear.
“We obviously have an industry filled with some of the hardest-working, patriotic people in the U.S.,” Spear told Transport Topics after the ceremony. “Those drivers are moms, dads. They’re husbands, wives. They’re involved in their communities. They’re very charitable. They are the essence of the American spirit and to see it recognized like this in a time of crisis — I have to say — I think that is really an extraordinarily important thing for the leader of our country to do.”
Relief for Truckers Comes with a December 15 Waiver
Due to those facts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has yet again provided relief for truck drivers who are struggling to renew their licenses, learner’s permits, or medical cards due to the ongoing pandemic on December 15. This is a “Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 National Emergency – For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles” whose licenses expired after March 1, 2020, and those whose medical cards expired on or after September 1, 2020.
The waiver extension is effective through February 28, 2021, giving drivers a few extra months to renew expired licenses, permits, or medical certificates. FMCSA’s official announcement was that “this waiver is in the public interest, given interstate and intrastate CDL and CLP holders’ and interstate non-CDL drivers’ critical role in delivering necessary property and passengers, including, but not limited to, shipments of essential supplies and persons to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency”.
Unique circumstances include but are not limited to COVID-19 public health emergency leading to widespread closures of State and Federal government offices, reduction of government and medical services, and disruption of transportation systems, including driver shortages and related interruption of supply chains, which are heavily dependent on continued CMV operations. The FMCSA also pointed out that many medical care providers have canceled regular appointments due to the COVID-19 crisis, making it very hard for working drivers to get their physical exam, necessary for renewing their licenses.
Read more about Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver on the official FMCSA website.
Truckers are Next in Line for the COVID-19 Vaccine
Being recognized as a vital part of the “Nation’s organism” carries certain responsibilities, meaning that drivers will be included in the third group recommended for the COVID vaccine! Essential workers include around 87 million people necessary for keeping a healthy nation’s infrastructure.
The first group includes people in long-term care facilities and healthcare personnel. This group has already started receiving the vaccine from the first vaccine shipments. The second group includes people who are most threatened by the coronavirus - 75 years old and older, and “frontline essential workers.”
In the third group are truck drivers, people 65-74 years old, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions, and “other essential workers.” Take a look at ACIP’s presentation of “Phased Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines” here.
Workers considered “frontline essential workers” in Phase 1b include first responders, teachers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and more. In the “other essential workers” group are transportation and logistics workers, food service workers, and more.
Vaccines are Always Carrying a Certain Level of Controversy
Even though they may be the next in line, drivers don’t want the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s a general opinion based on an unofficial poll made by CDLlife (21% says YES to the vaccine, while 79% says NO), and the very vaccines they helped distribute are not so welcome among this group!
The trucking community has been fighting for ‘essential worker’ status since the beginning of the pandemic, and this carries a heavy responsibility. While some are fighting for truckers to get the vaccine as soon as possible, like ATA’s executive vice president for advocacy, Bill Sullivan, who announced: “Our workforce represents a central and critical link in the nation’s supply chain and will play an essential role in the imminent COVID-19 vaccine distribution process,” in a letter to White House and other relevant officials, regular working people are not so in favor for this decision to be made on their behalf.
Nevertheless, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted in favor of recommendations regarding who will be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with the following recommendations in mind:
- Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
- Preserve the functioning of society.
- Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.
If you want to find out how CDC is making COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, visit their official page.
What is your opinion on being an essential worker of the entire USA and taking the vaccine?