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Raman Dhillon

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After initially saying he was pleased with the transparency shown by China in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has recently chastised the Chinese leaders about the matter, bringing into question the “phase one” China trade deal which was negotiated last year.

Trump has labeled the disease the “Chinese virus” and says he has intelligence which indicates the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. No evidence of this has yet to be revealed, however, and experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s own coronavirus task force, have dismissed these claims.

In an interview with Fox News on May 8, Trump said, “Look, I’m having a very hard time with China. I made a great trade deal months before this whole thing happened. And it was kicking in, you know, a month ago and starting to kick in and starting to produce and then this happens, and it sort of overrides so much.”

Notwithstanding these comments, trade officials from the U.S., including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and officials from China said they are continuing to implement the bilateral trade deal and are hoping to cooperate on other health and economic issues as well.

A statement from Lighthizer’s office said, “Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success. In spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.”

In recent weeks, tensions have grown between China and the Trump Administration as the president has made vague threats about once again levying tariffs against China. Chinese officials have strongly denied Trump’s allegations about their handling of the virus, saying the administration wants to “to shift their own responsibility for their poor handling of the epidemic to others.” Johns Hopkins University indicates that China has less than 5,000 deaths from the virus while the U.S. now sees numbers approaching 80,000. 

Wall Street investors appear to be ignoring Trump’s words on the issue as stocks rose on news that the U.S. and China are continuing to forge ahead with the trade deal. In fact, China has recently purchased six cargo shipments of soybeans and 600,000 tons of corn. Many imports have lagged, however, down by 5.9% in the first quarter, as the worldwide health crisis continues, and it could be difficult for China to meet “phase one” goals.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) officials say the agency plans on distributing one million protective face masks to the nation’s truck drivers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 800,000 of the masks will be made available to drivers at rest areas, CHP field divisions, and inspection stations in various states while another 200,000 masks will go directly to trucking companies.

Distribution began as early as April 30 in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, and Texas. Drivers can check for places and times on the FMCSA official website: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/masks.

Truck drivers have been sounding alarm signals since early March about a lack of protective equipment, including masks. In fact, the entire nation, especially hospitals, have been scrambling for personal protective equipment (PPE) since the pandemic gripped the nation six weeks ago. 

Even the largest trucking companies have had trouble procuring PPE. Companies have also had trouble getting sick drivers back home with many of them left on the road to self-quarantine in truck stops, potentially infecting other drivers. This issue has led the FMCSA to modify hours-of-service rules.

To keep the U.S. economy going, it will be essential to keep truck drivers safe. Many drivers were already challenged by health-related problems. Key among those is the fact that a large number of drivers lack health insurance. In fact, drivers are twice as likely as other working Americans to not be covered. In addition, many drivers are also not eligible for paid sick leave.

Truckers are also more likely than average Americans to be obese or have diabetes, which makes them particularly vulnerable to possible complications if they become infected by the coronavirus. But, with approximately 70% of U.S. freight hauled by trucks, it is crucial that the nation does all it can to keep drivers healthy and on the road.

Despite being praised as heroes for keeping products moving, truckers are protesting recent developments including declining spot rates, increased driving hours for those delivering groceries and other essentials, and the fact that truckers have not been eligible for stimulus funds recently appropriated by Congress.

As the U.S. economy staggers into the spring and summer months, truckers have seen rates collapse across the nation as the current health emergency continues to wreak havoc. These rate drops, which represent the lowest levels since the financial crisis of 2009, have caused truckers in California, Arizona, and Texas to stage protests.

In Houston, some 70 independent truck drivers blocked traffic, protesting what they say is unfair treatment by freight brokers. Several were cited and one arrested as local police responded. 

Truckers claim that brokers are now paying only a fraction of what they had been paying before the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the U.S. economy. Trips from Houston to Midland-Odessa which had been paying $1,800 are now only paying $700.

Houston police chief Art Acevedo sympathized with truckers, saying he would conduct a criminal investigation into allegations that truckers are being cheated out of wages. He added, however, that blocking traffic would not be tolerated.

In Arizona, 18 independent truckers circled the state capital in Phoenix. These truckers were protesting long hours caused by the suspension of hours-of-work regulations initiated by the federal government at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

In California, truckers were also protesting low rates. Loads from Los Angeles to Arizona which used to pay upwards of $2,300 were now only paying $350. Combined with rates that had already declined in 2019 and many drivers are saying it is simply not worth their time. 

Nearly 100 drivers drove from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, slowing traffic and ultimately being cited by CHP for driving below the minimum speed. More protests have been scheduled for May 1 in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington.

After spot rates had risen in early March, they have now cratered on account of several factors. First, with much of the economy shut down, demand is simply not there. Second, as a result of an economic upturn in 2018, the number of trucks on the road increased, but with the current crisis, shipments have seriously declined. Finally, shipments from overseas, especially China, have fallen significantly in recent months.

D’lberville, Mississippi– AmericaWithOutDrivers is pleased to announce an opportunity to hear
directly from some of the American Truck Drivers as we state some of the major issues facing
the trucking industry today. Covering the two most important issues, Public Safety, and Jobs,
you will understand how these points will affect the nation’s supply chain in the future. As for actual
drivers who travel the roads during the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing America’s essential
supplies, we will be telling the inside information to the public, the media, and our
representatives. With millions of accident-free miles logged, we bring solutions to the table of
how to prevent loss of life on our roads and assure the safety of the truck drivers; something our
own regulatory agency, FMCSA has not been able to accomplish since its creation. Listen to
the truth, from people who drive trucks, not desks.
AmericaWithOutDrivers is a unique coalition of hundreds of drivers, organizations, and other
industry stakeholders, working together to accomplish common goals. This Media Blitz is the
first of many priorities, on our way to making solutions available to those who can effect change.
If you are interested, please accept our invitation to join our conference call on Monday, May 4,
2020 at 11:00 a.m. Central time by clicking on this LINK and RSVPing. We look forward to
“seeing” you at this social distancing event. If you have any other questions, please contact
Will@americawithoutdrivers.com.

Ten years ago, Facebook was emerging as one of the top social media websites, and Women In Trucking member, Sandy Long, recognized its potential.  She reached out and asked if she could start a WIT group on the site.  She wanted a place for female drivers to be able to ask questions, network, and find new friends.  She saw the value of connecting drivers with technology.

Although Sandy passed away a few years ago, her legacy remains in the WIT Facebook group, which now includes nearly 11,000 individuals in the trucking industry.  Both men and women visit the group to talk about things that affect their roles as professional drivers. While the majority are truck drivers, there are others who are on the site to learn or to network.

You may be surprised to learn that the page is moderated by professional drivers.  They take turns watching the site for compliance.  In fact, while WIT staff checks in on the site, the admins are vigilant in ensuring the posters follow the rules, which they must agree to before approval is granted into the closed group.

Members are muted or removed from the site for violating the profanity roles, posting accident photos, asking for money, or trying to recruit drivers or sell products. The rules ensure that the group is a welcoming, helpful, and educational site. Swearing and name-calling is not tolerated, which makes this group family-friendly.

These WIT members work hard to ensure the group remains supportive and helpful.  They also post scenarios and ask for feedback on the situation.  They query members on safety rules and often provide resources when someone has a question about regulations that affect the industry.

These women and men are a great resource when we want to get feedback about numerous topics.   Some of our corporate members have used the information to make changes in their policies, equipment or merchandise.  We met with one truck manufacturer’s engineers and marketing team to talk about what changes drivers would like to see in their cab.  A truck stop chain asked for feedback on paid parking and how they could improve the shower experience. We’re thrilled to have such a wonderful resource.

In ten years, the group has grown to include members in 55 countries!  There are nearly 100 different cities shown as members’ locations.  There are more Facebook members who call Atlanta, Georgia home while New York City and Chicago come in second and third.

They range in age from thirteen to “over” 65.  The largest group is aged 45-54 which reflects the driver population as a while.  Also, as expected, 76 percent of the members in the WIT Facebook group are women.

A comment can result in over a thousand reactions (i.e.: thumbs up!), thousands of views (exposures), and hundreds of comments. While posts, comments are reactions are mostly created throughout the week, the most common day for entries is on Saturday.

While the admins try very hard to monitor posts as they are entered, that can be difficult, as there are numerous night owls (or those in other countries) who are on the site throughout the night.  However, the posts peak in the early evening with the most posts being made between four and eight o’clock pm.

WIT Board member and owner-operator Deb LaBree leads the moderators, who include Lori Blackburn, Cindy Kaps, Kim McGinnis, Tracy Gaudette, Margaret Levesque, April Hackett Crysel and Marie Stoneberg.

This blog is to honor the legacy of Sandy Long who had the vision to create a group to bring drivers together in a positive environment.  In honor of the tenth anniversary of the Women In Trucking Facebook group, a heartfelt thank you goes out to the admins who keep everyone in line and to the nearly 11,000 members who are part of this amazing group.

Ellen Voie, CAE, PDC
P O Box 400, Plover, WI 54467-0400
888-464-9482    920-312-1350 Mobile

Volvo Trucks North America is providing free 90-day eLearning for high school and secondary technical education students interested in diesel technician training, but due to the limitations created by COVID-19, it cannot participate in hands-on courses.

“Training skilled, professional diesel technicians is a crucial component of uptime, especially with the demands currently being placed on the trucking industry as a result of COVID-19,” said Leanne Fitzpatrick, strategic programs manager, Volvo Trucks Academy. “It is important for Volvo Trucks to continue to provide educational opportunities for students during this difficult time.”

With stay-at-home and social distancing mandates in place during the pandemic, students do not currently have access to learning in a typical classroom setting. The Volvo Trucks Academy is providing interested students with free 90-day access to a portion of the Technical Education Support (TES) online training and resources currently available to Volvo Trucks diesel technicians. Training will cover an array of topics including engines, transmissions, and other components.

The TES90 online courses will be offered through local dealerships, which have relationships with eligible schools interested in enrolling. Program availability and training content will be provided by the dealer and accessed through the Trucks Customer Portal. For more information, interested parties should contact their local Volvo Trucks dealer.

“This program will help equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as future diesel technicians and we are proud of the efforts put forth from our team here at Volvo Trucks Academy and our dealer network to be nimble and switch gears to offer online education during these extraordinary time,” said Fitzpatrick. “And, through this online training along with our other Academy educational opportunities, we are establishing and cultivating relationships with future truck technicians, supporting them in starting their career and filling the need for trained service professionals familiar with our truck models, which directly contributes to our customers’ uptime.”

DMV delays registration requirements, allows online MER/MEC filling, waives late fees and extends permits and ID’s

To submit MER/MEC forms through the DMV Virtual Office, CDL holders must visit DMV’s Virtual Office, complete the required fields, and upload approved MER/MEC forms completed by a licensed U.S. doctor of medicine (M.D.), doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), physician’s assistant (P.A.), doctor of chiropractic (D.C.) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). A DMV employee will correspond with the CDL holder through email if more information/documents are required. The CDL holder will receive a confirmation email when the transaction is complete and their record has been updated to reflect the new MER/MEC.

NOTE: The CDL holder must have a current, non-expired CDL in order to submit the MER/MEC through the DMV Virtual Office. An expired CDL record will not allow the MER/MEC to update.

Now Update Medical Certificates Online

Commercial drivers now can submit medical certificate updates for their license through the DMV’s Virtual Office. This transaction previously could only be accomplished through mail or a visit to a DMV field office.
The DMV announced yesterday’s commercial driver license (CDL) holders
with a non-expired CDL can submit an approved CDL Medical Examiner Report (MER) MCSA-5875 and Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) MCSA-5876 through the DMV Virtual Office. This ensures their CDL record is updated biannually to remain federally compliant.

Relief for Late Fees, Vehicle Registration, Permits

Additionally, following the Governor’s Executive Order, the DMV provided new relief by:

Waiving late fees and penalties for vehicle registration renewals due between March 16 and May 31, 2020, and paid within 60 days of the original expiration date. The requirement to have current license plate stickers is also waived for vehicles with registration expiring between March 4 and June 30, 2020.

Extending identification cards expiring on or after March 4, 2020, to be valid through June 22, 2020 (60 days from today).

Temporarily suspending for 60 days the requirement to submit a transfer of ownership within 10 days for vehicle transfers occurring on or after March 4, 2020, and the requirement to register a vehicle acquired or previously based outside of California within 20 days once registration becomes due.

Allowing temporary operating permits that expire on or after March 4, 2020, to be valid another 60 days from today.

Lengthening motor carrier permits expiring in March, April, and May 2020 to June 30, 2020. A motor carrier permit is required for numerous transportation and commercial activities in California, including transporting property for compensation, hauling with a commercial vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, and transporting hazardous materials.

As a reminder, all commercial driver licenses, endorsements and certificates expiring between March and June 2020 are now valid through June 30, 2020, following the DMV’s announcement aligning the state extension with FMCSA’s waiver.

Under the current COVID-19 working conditions, Volvo Trucks North America is encouraging customers to utilize the Volvo SELECT Part Store, the company’s leading e-commerce parts platform, replacing in-person transactions with the convenience of online ordering and direct delivery.

The Volvo SELECT Part Store enables customers to locate their participating Volvo Trucks dealer and search and select from more than 500,000 parts for purchase and delivery, which is especially helpful as a safe and efficient solution while the current stay-at-home and social distancing mandates are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online ordering through the store is currently utilized by over 53,000 registered users through 105 Volvo Trucks dealer groups across the U.S. and Canada. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the service secures parts for customers without the need to visit a dealership for pick up.

“When the Volvo SELECT Part Store has introduced 10 years ago, it was an innovation we were proud to offer our customers enabling a faster, more efficient ordering experience,” said Todd Shakespeare, director of parts marketing at Volvo Trucks North America. “In this current environment, we’re glad that customers can take advantage of online ordering and direct delivery in addition to other price specials and parts promotions available to them.”

Volvo SELECT Part Store allows around-the-clock access to look up parts, check inventory availability, verify pricing and place orders. Customers who would like to start ordering parts online through the Volvo SELECT Part Store should contact a participating dealer or visit the Volvo SELECT website.

This fall, Volvo Trucks plans to introduce a next-generation e-commerce platform that will offer an expanded range of features, functionality, and benefits to customers and dealers. Providing secure, remote access to parts, components, and expert support will further reinforce Volvo Trucks North America’s industry leadership position in e-commerce, parts availability, safety, and service.

“We are always working to help our customers’ businesses be successful and continually look for new opportunities to offer the best, most efficient solutions for their needs,” said Shakespeare.