News roundup, April 24: Feds to distribute 800,000 masks to truckers

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, April 24, 2020:

Feds to distribute 800,000 masks to truckers
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Transportation will soon distribute approximately 800,000 masks for truck drivers for protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, an official with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association confirmed Friday.

Doug Morris, OOIDA director of safety and security, said he received word that the agencies will distribute masks to drivers at six rest stops across the country with the possibility of more locations to be added. Morris said the dates for distribution are still unknown as of Friday afternoon, but he said he expects it to be next week. The six locations are:

  • Georgia: I-75 southbound at mile marker 179 just north of Macon
  • Illinois: I-80/I-294 eastbound at mile marker 1 in Chicago
  • Nebraska: I-80 westbound at mile marker 431 near Omaha
  • Texas: I-35 northbound at mile marker 362A south of Hillsboro
  • California: I-5 northbound in Los Angeles
  • New York: I-87 northbound at mile marker 33, just north of New York City

Morris said the mask distribution comes after a letter sent by OOIDA earlier this month to the White House asking for improved access to personal protective equipment, coronavirus testing and more.

“We brought up this need for truckers to FEMA, DHS and DOT several times in meetings, but there always ended up being a brick wall,” Morris said. “We got so frustrated that we sent a letter to the president. After that letter was sent, the White House reached out to us to see what the problem was and what we needed.”

A FEMA spokesperson on Friday afternoon said the agency will be “distributing cloth face coverings to critical infrastructure and economic sectors to enable the nation to continue our response and begin to recover from the COVID 19 crisis,” adding that the program “is related to a long standing plan to assist American citizens after a major disaster where face coverings would be useful for a large population.”

Canadian trucker busted with 80 pounds of drugs
A Canadian trucker was arrested recently for allegedly trying to take more than 80 pounds of suspected drugs out of the U.S. at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers were conducting outbound enforcement inspections on vehicles leaving Michigan for Canada. A Canadian truck driver was referred for a cab check by officers.

CBP says agents then noticed the driver becoming increasingly nervous and visibly shaken as they performed a physical inspection of his truck’s cab. Officers eventually found several bricks of suspected cocaine and fentanyl. The unidentified driver was arrested and faces federal prosecution related to the exportation of illegal drugs.

FMCSA extends fleet’s split sleeper berth waiver
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced this week it has renewed a waiver for McKee Foods, allowing its team drivers to split their sleeper berth time into two periods totaling 10 hours.

The agency first granted the waiver in 2015. Under terms of the waiver, team drivers for the private fleet of the maker of Little Debbie and other snack foods have been able to split their 10-hour sleeper berth time into two periods, as long as neither period is shorter than three hours.

The waiver is now effective through April 20, 2025.

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