Among the most overlooked heroes of the 2020 coronavirus crisis are the men and women who haul food and supplies around the country to your local supermarket. Americans can stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer—and generally keep themselves fed—only as long as the nation’s truckers keep working.
We stress the word “overlooked.” In all the well-deserved tributes to personnel helping to mitigate the damage wrought by Covid-19, truckers usually don’t get a mention. So disregarded are they that when some states imposed shelter-in-place orders in March and early April, they ordered public rest areas closed, too—leaving truckers to figure out on their own where to relieve themselves and park their trucks for a snooze break.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation closed its public rest areas but reopened most of them after a backlash from trucking groups. Other states made the same mistake, closing rest areas then reopening them—apparently realizing the folly of forcing truckers and other travelers to seek more public places for sustenance and thus make themselves and others more vulnerable to infection. New Hampshire’s public rest areas remain open, although the restroom buildings are locked, leaving truckers to use nearby portable toilets. We’re not sure what problem that solves.
Finding decent sustenance and relief is no easy thing for truckers on the nation’s highways, particularly when so many facilities have been forced to close. Public officials owe it to the people delivering food and medical supplies to make their jobs easier.
Credit Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for easing the restrictions governing the number of successive hours logged by truckers transporting food and other vital materials, and waiving penalties for expired commercial driver’s licenses. And the federal government has waived regulations prohibiting food trucks from servicing public rest areas, giving truckers at least some variety in hot meals.
President Trump gave truckers a shout out on Thursday at the White House, and why not. As a truckers’ industry group slogan has it, without trucks, America stops. Honk if you agree.