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'People's Convoy' meets Republican Sens., Reps.; Owner-ops, small fleets recognized by broker

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, March 9, 2022:

‘People’s Convoy’ reps talk COVID-related mandates with Rebublican Senators

After arriving at a speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, this past Saturday, the "People's Convoy" dispatched itself on two laps around the I-495 Capitol Beltway in the Washington, D.C. region on Sunday, in a single-lane run that stretched for miles. On Monday, after the rush hour, it did just a single lap around the Beltway, but occupying two lanes. Yesterday, Tuesday, March 8, the convoy and affiliated groups ended two weeks since it departed Adelanto, California, with another another two-lane-occupying lap. That and a purported $1.6 million raised through the less-than-one-year-young American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedom political fund-raising group provided backdrop to a high-profile meeting and subsequent press conference with Senators Ted Cruz (R, Texas) and Ron Johnson (R, Wisconsin) yesterday morning. (Representatives from the convoy reportedly met with Republican House members in the afternoon as well.) 

The meeting in the Capitol building followed Senate Republicans' move last week to take advantage of Democratic Senator absences and Senate rules to push through a resolution that would, if passed by the House and signed by the President, do part of what People's Convoy co-organizer Brian Brase said the group wants: End the national emergency declaration around the COVID-19 pandemic. 

[Related: Will the national emergency declaration's COVID hours waiver extend again?

Brase and others in the group also called for an end to all COVID-related mask and/or vaccine mandates in the United States, whether directed at the local, state or federal level. At the last, Brase said, "we’re losing well-qualified soldiers" over the military vaccine requirement. "You’ve got health care workers who’ve spent their entire life becoming the best – now they’re losing their jobs because they believe it’s wrong to be forced into vaccination."

Cruz offered support to the move against the emergency declaration, describing the convoy as men and women simply "standing up for freedom. It ought to be your decision how to live your life [and] how you treat your body."  

Yet the Senator offered a word of caution to convoy organizers during the closed-door session, which was nonetheless broadcast via livestream, noting that they would need support across the aisle from members of the Democratic Party, not to mention the President, who has already threatened to veto the emergency declaration-ending bill if it reaches his desk. "Actions by Congress to end these authorities abruptly and prematurely would be a reckless and costly mistake," the White House said in a statement. 

"You have to have Democrats in the House to break ranks," Cruz said. "There have to be some Democrats in the House who are scared out of their minds who, if they had any sense, ought to vote on this." 

Brase went out of his way to to characterize the effort as cross-partisan. "I implore you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to meet with these drivers – and people from all over America," he said, offering an open invitation to lawmakers and members of the government otherwise to visit the convoy encampment at the Hagerstown speedway. "This convoy has shown the heart and soul of the United States and what we’re about," and has clearly been a cathartic exercise for many participants.

[Related: What I saw in Indianapolis of the 'People's Convoy']

Small fleet owner Ron Coleman, out of Reno, Nevada, noted his daughter, also involved in the business, urged him not to take part in the cross-country convoy given the expense, yet he said, 'I can’t afford not to do this.' He read from a note at the press conference, one of many that came his way from children and other supporters over the course of the convoy. This one was 'wrapped around a cookie,' he said, then reading: 'Dear trucker, I admire your courage and your determination in doing this. I will support you in prayer, for a victory over the sad oppression that is going on. Thank you for fighting for all of us.” It was signed 'a mother of three, God Bless you,' he said. 'I have a box full of these things.' He likens himself in conversations with those bearing the greetings to the Pony Express of days gone by, saying, 'I will collect your tears, I will collect your messages, I will collect your heart, and I will take it here to Washington D.C., and I will deliver.' For him, that mission 'is partially complete,' he said.Small fleet owner Ron Coleman, out of Reno, Nevada, noted his daughter, also involved in the business, urged him not to take part in the cross-country convoy given the expense, yet he said, "I can’t afford not to do this." He read from a note at the press conference, one of many that came his way from children and other supporters over the course of the convoy. This one was "wrapped around a cookie," he said, then reading: "Dear trucker, I admire your courage and your determination in doing this. I will support you in prayer, for a victory over the sad oppression that is going on. Thank you for fighting for all of us.” It was signed "a mother of three, God Bless you," he said. "I have a box full of these things." He likens himself in conversations with those bearing the greetings to the Pony Express of days gone by, saying, "I will collect your tears, I will collect your messages, I will collect your heart, and I will take it here to Washington D.C., and I will deliver." For him, that mission "is partially complete," he said.

Owner-operator Jerry Stetz offered his view on the creep of top-down control efforts that he was seeing around the United States from governments of various levels since the COVID-19 pandemic began. To an extent, he noted, it felt similar to what he grew up with in Poland before a heavily Soviet Russia-influenced authoritarian government fell there in the early 1990s. Stetz emigrated and came to Chicago in 1995 -- he's now based in Florida, and has been in trucking since he came to the country. "I escaped from that country to get the freedom, and it’s like déjà vu now," here, he said.  

Other operators stressed a feeling of oneness, of camaraderie with people of all kinds of background across the United States after the nearly two-week run, dotted with flag wavers and others on overpasses that have continued to a point on laps around the Beltway. "We’ve already won because we’ve opened their hearts," owner-operator Allen Kelly believed. "Once their hearts are opened, they can’t be closed." 

Brase and others added they wanted investigations with Congressional hearings into the federal government's response to the pandemic, which began under Trump in 2020. "We would love the opportunity to speak to the administration, any member of the House, any member of the Senate," he said. 

Inspired in part by the Canadian "Freedom Convoy" that began with a group of truckers opposing cross-border vaccine requirements, People's Convoy representatives noted they planned to continue to do circles around the Beltway and take more meetings "until our demands are met," Brase said. He openly added he hoped to inspire state-level organization to push against state-directed mandates, such as they still exist, too. 

There was no direct mention during the meeting of the Canadian and U.S. cross-border vaccine mandates. 

[Related: Legislation introduced to exempt Canadian, Mexican drivers from cross-border vaccine mandates]

20 carriers recognized by Coyote Logistics for outstanding service

Coyote Logistics has revealed the winners of its 2021 Carrier of the Year awards, which recognizes carriers in Coyote’s network that have exhibited exceptional service and a strong commitment to keeping goods moving in a time defined by disruption and uncertainty.

One standout owner-operator company, Dark Knight Express, owned by Jamaica, New York-based Deo Subrian, was awarded On-Time Delivery Champion for his 99% on-time delivery record. Several small fleets were also recognized for their service.

Carriers recognized by Coyote, according to fleet size, were:

Owner-operator
On-Time Delivery Champion: Dark Knight Express, Inc.

Small fleet
On-Time Delivery Champion: ABA Enterprise Corporation
On-Time Pick-Up Champion: Palmetto Diesel Towing & Recovery, LLC
All-Around KPI Champion: Auscor Transportation Services
Dedicated Freight Champion: JP Logistics, Inc.

Mid-sized fleet
On-Time Pick-Up Champion: Rapid Transport, Inc.​
On-Time Delivery Champion​: Legacy Express, LLC.​
Most Versatile Carrier: Hazel's Expedited Freight

Large fleet
Dedicated Freight Champion: A.D. Transport Express, Inc.​
TMS Champion: Skagit Transportation, Inc.
Private Fleet Carrier of the Year​: QuikTrip Distribution​

Specialty
Final Mile Carrier of the Year: PEI
Drayage Carrier of the Year: Day-N-Nite Transportation, Inc.​
UPS Freight Carrier of the Year: Global Transport LLC
Expedited Carrier of the Year​: Load One, LLC
Open-Deck Carrier of the Year​: Melton Truck Lines, Inc.
LTL Carrier of the Year​: Estes Express Lines
Refrigerated Carrier of the Year: Vilano Incorporated

International
Cross-Border Carrier of the Year, Canada: Trans 99 Logistics
Cross-Border Carrier of the Year, Mexico​: Texas Carriers, LLC

Canadian driver named Highway Angel for giving stranded motorist a ride

The Truckload Carriers Association has named Greg Vandal, a driver for Bison Transport from Strathmore, Alberta, Canada, a Highway Angel for helping a stranded motorist, en route to a wedding, following a fire that destroyed his vehicle. 

Gregory VandalGregory VandalVandal was on the Trans-Canada Highway one morning in mid-December, pulling a double trailer bound for Calgary, when he saw a vehicle on the shoulder with white smoke billowing around it.

“As I got closer, I could see flames where the gas tank would be,” Vandal said. He quickly prepared to pull over. “I grabbed my fire extinguisher, but by the time I got there, the fire was too far gone, and the fire extinguisher didn’t do much.”

Thankfully, the driver was out of the vehicle and unharmed. The man asked Vandal to break a back window so he could retrieve his suitcase. Vandal noticed the car’s New York license plates.

“The poor guy was out there in the middle of nowhere, and it was very cold, maybe -20 degrees, and he wasn’t dressed for the occasion,” he said.

Vandal invited him to sit in the cab to warm up. The fire department arrived and extinguished the fire, but not before it had totally consumed the vehicle. 

Vandal learned the motorist was driving from New York to Calgary for his goddaughter’s wedding. He had 400 miles to go. Vandal contacted Bison Transport to request permission for him to ride along with him to Calgary, and the request was approved. The two men settled in for a long drive and got to know one another. Vandal asked him when the wedding was taking place.

“He looked at his watch and said, ‘right now.’ Well, that wasn’t going to happen for him,” Vandal said. Although Vandal wouldn’t be able to get the man to church in time for the wedding, he could probably get him to Calgary in time to catch part of the reception. Now the two men were on a mission.

“When we got to Calgary, I dropped my trailers at their location, dropped the tractor, and then we hopped in my car and I got him to the wedding reception,” Vandal said.  

The driver’s family warmly welcomed Vandal and invited him to join them. “They were very gracious and kinda gave me a celebrity’s welcome. It was a wonderful time. I met some really, really nice people.” The two men have since become good friends.  

Bison Transport received a note of thanks from the motorist. In part, he said, “Greg’s act of selflessness and spirit of goodness personifies what it is to be a hero and for that my family and I are incredibly grateful. When I look back on the events of 2021 … the only defining moment for me was when Greg and I crossed paths on a lone stretch of Canadian highway and instantly formed a lifelong bond and friendship.”   

TCA has presented Vandal with a certificate, patches, lapel pin and truck decals. Bison Transport has also received a letter acknowledging him as a Highway Angel.

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