Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Dec. 21, 2020:
Truckers now recommended for third COVID vaccine group
Following a meeting of a federal advisory board on Sunday, Dec. 20, truck drivers and other transportation and logistics personnel are now in the third group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, only behind other frontline essential workers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) placed truckers in Phase 1c, based on the group attempting to find a balance between preventing deaths and preserving a functioning society.
In the first group, Phase 1a, are people in long-term care facilities and healthcare personnel. This group has already started receiving the vaccine from the first vaccine shipments that went out last week.
The second group, Phase 1b, consists of people 75 years old and older, and “frontline essential workers.” Phase 1c, the third group that includes truck drivers, includes people 65-74 years old, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions, and “other essential workers.”
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.
Congress reaches agreement on COVID relief bill
As of this writing, text of the bill was not available, but Congressional leaders from both parties were lauding what they said was a bill delivering $900 billion worth in spending in a variety of areas. Most Americans reportedly will receive direct cash infusions of $600, and bonus federal unemployment assistance would be extended for a few more months, including to qualifying self-employed independent contractors.
The agreement also reportedly included nearly $300 billion more in aid to flow through the Paycheck Protection Program, the package of loans that became grants if utilized by small businesses largely to make payroll. About a quarter of Overdrive owner-operator and small fleet readers were able to take advantage of the PPP loans during the rough-rolling early months of the pandemic, though a great deal of trucking has benefited from an uptick in freight market conditions since June of this year.
If reporting on the Congressional aid package from Forbes magazine is correct, some companies could be eligible for a second round of PPP loans, though necessity tests would apply. Congress appeared to be on the verge, too, of reversing an Internal Revenue Service interpretation that held that expenses, including wage/salary costs, covered by a PPP loan would not be deductible to reduce taxable income for the 2020 tax year, a reality covered by Overdrive Editorial Director Max Heine earlier this month.
Other areas covered by the bill included some $10 billion earmarked for highway-related investment, $68 billion around vaccine production and distribution, and much more. A succinct summary is available via National Public Radio via this link.
Driver arrested in NY on gun charges
New York State Troopers arrested an Indiana-based trucker for carrying numerous semi-automatic weapons and a large cache of ammunition for the rifles and pistols.
A statement from the troopers says on Monday, Dec. 14, at about 12:30 p.m., the State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit directed a tractor-trailer into the Depew Tandem Lot at exit 49 on I-90, for a commercial vehicle inspection. Upon interviewing the driver, probable cause to search the interior of the vehicle was established, according to the troopers.
The driver, Zayne R. Coston, 28, of Gary, Indiana, was taken into custody after officers discovered four semi-automatic rifles (one loaded), four semi-automatic handguns (three of which were loaded), 13 high capacity magazines, three of the magazines were charged with several rounds, and various other caliber ammunition. He was transported to the Buffalo State Police Post for processing.
After further investigation, it was determined that Coston has a criminal history in the state of Illinois where he is a convicted felon, therefore he was subsequently charged with five counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon second degree, 17 counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 3rd degree, and one count of Criminal Possession of a Firearm.
Coston was virtually arraigned and remanded to the Erie County Holding Center in lieu of $10,000 cash bail.