Trucking’s “Essentials” demonstrate how essential they really are
At the end of April American Trucking Associations (ATA) President Chris Spear was praising the U.S. trucking industry’s role in keeping critical supply chains connected as COVID-19 virus panic gained steam. Nevertheless, Spear’s appraisal was spot-on.
“Since it first entered the United States, the coronavirus has upended life across America. But through all the turmoil and uncertainty, truckers have forged ahead. While everything around us seems turned upside down, American trucking remains one absolute, steady constant.” That is still true, now more than ever.
What essential really means
As the crisis was peaking, Spear declared truckers should receive “high praise and widespread recognition for their heroism.” More poignantly he also remarked “Americans are opening their eyes to the gravity of what essential really means.”
It’s likely most Americans will remain truly astonished how quickly social and political forces could switch from hamstringing the American economy in the name of public safety, to systematically abandoning it and in the process burn down commercial centers in virtually every major city in the country.
Anarchy is never pretty and while legitimate peaceful demonstrations have their rightful place (ask truckers doing slow-roll demonstrations and anti-lockdown patriots) in our constitutional Republic, it’s never an excuse for riots, looting nor deadly violence against innocents.
Ask Bogdan Vechirko
Minneapolis police have even less to be proud of after arresting the victim of mob violence, truck driver Bogdan Vechirko – the poor soul dragged from his truck and beaten after accidently encountering protesters blocking the road. According to initial reports he charged the line in panic, but no one was hurt. He stopped and that’s when he was assaulted. Fortunately, his physical injuries were minor – not so much however, regarding injury to his civil liberties.
In a report about his release from television station KARE, local Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington was quoted saying that Vechirko was already on the interstate when barricades were set up to block traffic to ensure the safety of demonstrators.
Running empty, running scared
According to Harrington, Vechirko was “running empty” with no fuel in a tanker trailer and speeding when he encountered the crowd. The official said Vechirko “panicked, continuing to barrel forward at a high rate of speed.” Anybody who remembers what happened to Reginald Denny under similar circumstances might understand his reaction.
Safety concerns mount for fleets
The Vechirko incident only serves to underscore the special jeopardy driver are under as they literally navigate through political and social unrest to deliver their loads. John Hitch of FleetOwner outlined the threat facing truckers and fleet operators: “The mingling of heavy-duty trucks and highly agitated protests has created a new safety question for the trucking industry to answer: How to get through without adding fuel to the flames?” How indeed.
Owners of the rig Vechirko was driving Kenan Advantage Group, issued this statement. “Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this past week. We have been informed of an incident involving one of our independent contractors in Minneapolis, MN during recent protests. Our first and foremost concern is for the safety and security of the public, our employees and our customers.”
We’re all on edge
Headlining their story “Outbreak of Violence Has Truck Drivers on Edge” CDLife.com notes “as violent protests erupt throughout the country, drivers are once again finding themselves on the front line and have, once again, been deemed essential.” There’s that word again … essential … too bad so many forget that so quickly.
Time for action, plan for safety and protection
According to Hitch, the most pressing matter for fleets and logistics companies is to create an action plan for drivers if violence escalates. “Management needs to make clear what the company rules are for carrying firearms, as well as the specific laws for each state drivers will travel through,” advises Hitch, clearly looking out for operator’s rights to defend themselves and also understand local statutes as they relate to unlawfully obstructing traffic on public thoroughfares.
There’s more risk than ever to contend with, but truckers rarely shy from it – it’s part of the job. However, it is up to the industry and its most vocal advocates to arm themselves accordingly to defend and protect our country’s most essential essentials.