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Will Whatley: Trucking industry serving nation

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

When Alabama Trucking Association President and CEO Mark M. Colson talks about those serving the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, he realizes a lot of people are helping that might not get the attention.

“One night I worked so late I was around when the custodian showed up to clean the office,” he said. “I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her hard work because without her, we wouldn’t be able to serve those trucking companies who are keeping the country going.”

And while medical professionals are rightfully being celebrated during this global health emergency, they’re not the only ones who are helping us maintain our daily lives while we self-quarantine and social distance. Keeping store shelves stocked with essential goods isn’t easy during a pandemic. Just ask anyone who has tried to buy toilet paper lately.

According to Colson, the hard work and sacrifice of those in the trucking industry comes with the territory. One issue the truck drivers face is the issue of expired licenses because they’re on the road so much, it’s hard to have them renewed. To help alleviate this problem during the pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is granting a 90-day waiver until June 30 for drivers with expiring interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s licenses, commercial learner’s permits and other interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles.

“In addition, many medical providers nationwide have canceled regularly scheduled appointments to dedicate resources to the COVID-19 response,” the FMCSA stated in regards to the waiver. “As a result, drivers are unable to obtain appointments for physical examinations with medical examiners to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

“Given the national emergency, there is a public need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment, and persons, which requires an adequate and sustained supply of CDL holders, CLP holders, and drivers operating CMVs (non-CDL drivers). This waiver provides needed relief from specified FMCSRs for CDL holders, CLP holders and non-CDL drivers.”

To be honest, I’m no stranger to the work that truck drivers do every day to keep even the most mundane of things running. Growing up, my dad ran a trucking company that hauled various goods across the country. Then, while in college, I found myself with too much time on my hands, so I hauled dumpsters and portable toilets, which was much better for me than singlehandedly trying to keep Anheuser-Busch in business. Being a part-time driver with mostly local routes made me a little late to a few parties, but that was a small price to pay for an honest day’s work and a paycheck.

My dad used to hold employee appreciation days because he knew that without the drivers, along with the mechanics who serviced the trucks, the office workers who maintained the drivers’ logs, the dispatchers who lined up the cargo for the drivers to haul and the safety coordinators who oversaw the entire operation, there would literally be no food on our table. My dad would often take his drivers, his office employees and their families to catch a Braves game during the summer. I remember seeing one of my dad’s drivers approach him with tears in his eyes, thanking him for giving him the opportunity to take his kid to a Major League Baseball game.

As the coronavirus epidemic has shown us, trucking is an integral part of our everyday life, but it’s also one that we often overlook. We often take truck drivers for granted. We rarely stop to think about how refrigerated goods travel from farms to packaging centers to grocery stores, or how raw materials find their ways from one plant to another so that goods can be made and delivered to our local shops. Shipping is one of those things that you never think about unless it’s not working.

So as we go forward in this unprecedented pandemic, make sure to thank a trucker. Whether it’s a note to someone you know, a wave to the guy dollying out milk and bread from his semi, or giving the classic “pull your horn” motion along the interstate, I promise you the gesture will be appreciated.

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