U.S. House Holds Hearing On COVID-19 Impact On Transportation Workers
Last week, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing titled: “On the Front Lines: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Transportation Workers.”
The hearing examined the problems essential transportation workers are currently facing during the health pandemic and what Congress can do to alleviate those problems.
Many of the witnesses expressed concerns with the health risks that essential transportation workers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Randy Guillot stated that an “unanticipated safety concern was the availability of protective equipment.
Like other critical infrastructure workers, ATA’s member companies have struggled to obtain non-medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE), so that their drivers can reduce their exposure to COVID-19 while ensuring the supply chain remains intact.”
LaMont Byrd described the health risks transportation workers face while they ensure they complete their tasks, saying, “In many instances, they perform this critically important work without having been provided with the necessary PPE and safety supplies to protect themselves.”
Additionally, some witnesses focused some of their testimony on addressing the need for liability protection for businesses during the pandemic.
In his testimony, Randy Guilott stated, “In order to ensure motor carriers are not punished for stepping up in the face of the national emergency, and are not dis-incentivized from doing so, Congress should impose reasonable limitations on the liability of motor carriers for these enhanced, crisis-related risks that they cannot fully mitigate.”
PMAA has been working with Congress to ensure that the next COVID-19 relief bill will include a provision that protects businesses designated as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure from civil suits related to COVID-19, provided there is no gross negligence by those businesses.
Furthermore, some of the witnesses called for Congress to pass an infrastructure bill. They said that this is a top priority for transportation workers and will alleviate a lot of transportation issues.
Larry Willis stated “that investing in infrastructure is one of the greatest investments the federal government can make, with a return of between $1.50 and $3 dollars for every dollar spent. Those investments directly create and sustain good jobs in construction, engineering, maintenance, and operations. What’s more, when we improve the quality and accessibility of our transportation network, the economic opportunity of those investments extends to every corner of the American economy.”
Randy Guillot made a similar request, saying, “Investing in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure will both create jobs and provide a direct economic stimulus, while improving our crumbling roads and bridges.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recent hours of service (HOS) final rule was discussed at the hearing as well.
Randy Guillot stated that “ATA applauds FMCSA’s recent publication of a HOS Final Rule, which, in various ways, will give drivers the flexibility necessary to safely and efficiently manage operations.”
Conversely, however, LaMont Byrd stated that the final rule revision “occurred while commercial drivers who are involved in the transportation of goods in response to the pandemic are operating under “suspended” hours of service regulations, which allows drivers to drive and work an unrestricted number of hours on a daily and weekly basis.”
Byrd added that his organization sent comments opposing the rule change, claiming the rule “will not mitigate driver fatigue or improve transportation safety.”
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing and for written testimony.