By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
The federal government has suspended some rules for the trucking industry to keep up with the demand for foods and services brought on by the corona-virus outbreak, a leading trucking executive said Monday on Nevada Newsmakers.
“The supply chain is still intact,” Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association, told host Sam Shad. “Folks don’t have to worry about getting food in the next few weeks because we do have plenty. Go out there. You can shop. What is causing an issue is all of this panic buying, when folks are going out and buying three, four or five times what they normally would. That is where we are seeing the strain on the supply chain.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation has authorized an hours-of-service exemption for the truckers that is designed to keep the supply chain moving and store shelves stocked. Nevada consumers get more than 90 percent of their goods through trucks, Enos added.
Food deliveries to restock empty grocery stores are included the the federal-trucking decree. Also, medical supplies needed to fight the virus, such as surgical masks and hand sanitizer, are also exempt from the usual requirements, Enos said.
Toilet paper, where sales have increased almost 170 percent from last year, are not included on the list of exempt goods, according to Business Insider.
“We have seen the volumes go up like crazy and I really think it is because what we have seen on the media — everybody buying as much as they can. We’ve seen a run on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, all of those things. Some stores are limiting ( the purchase of) those. We’re not going to run out.”
In fact, U.S. storage facilities have larger-than-normal supplies of U.S. products, including foodstuffs, because trade with China has decreased dramatically during the corona-virus crisis.
“This is the time to be neighborly, this is the time to help folks out,” Enos said.
Consumers can help truckers and their neighbors by going back to regular purchasing habits, Enos said.
“Be cognizant of what you are buying at the store. Buy what you need but be aware that the stores are going to remain open,” he said. “We’ve heard from the president and vice president. Don’t go out there and panic buy.
The current shopping frenzy reminds Enos of the demand of Christmas season.
“Usually for Christmas season, retailers, trucking companies, they are getting ready for the Christmas season in August,” he said. “This was Christmas-season buying in early March. So, it makes it a little more difficult. But now we have the supply and we have the relief on hours-of-service rules from the federal government, so we’re able to do everything we need to do for to be able to sustain ourselves and our families.”
Federal rules permit truckers to drive a maximum of 11 hours within any 14-hour period, Enos said. Yet the recent increase in demand has truckers waiting more than six hours or more at distribution sites and warehouses to pick up goods to transport. Usually that wait is about 2 hours, Enos said.
“To see it go up to six hours when you are looking at a 14-hour clock, it can hamper a driver’s ability to go and get all of the things we need in our grocery stores in that time frame,” Enos said.
The relaxed rules will not impact highway safety, although Enos asked motorist to show patience when sharing the road with truckers.
“If a truck driver says, ‘I feel tired,’ they are still in charge. They know how they are feeling and if they feel fatigued, we’re going to take them off the road,” Enos said.
“Safety is something we strive for everyday,” he added. “So it is not going to decease safety. I’m just going to ask everybody out there who is sharing the road with trucks, give everybody a little bit more room. Let’s be patient.”
Hours of service rules for truckers have been suspended in the past at the state level to help with natural disasters. Yet this is the first time in the regulations’ 82-year history that hours-of-service with specific cargo has been suspended nationwide, according to the autoblog.com, website.