Special Edition V.23 (April 2020)
Maine Truck Driving Championships and PTSC Indefinitely Postponed
April 7, 2020

Today, the TDC and PTSC committees of the MMTA met jointly via Zoom to discuss the events set to be held in Bangor on May 16th. Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of participants and volunteers alike, the decision was made to indefinitely postpone the competitions.

Anyone who has registered to participate will receive a full refund and MMTA’s website will reflect the indefinite postponement.

Looking ahead, there is still a desire to have a competition, likely scaled back, sometime in the fall. The factors that will go into rescheduling the events are as follows:
  • Executive Orders and/or CDC guidance about gatherings in public;
  • If the supply chain is still strained such that driver participation would be discouraged;
  • The availability of PPE to keep participants and volunteers safe such as gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes; and
  • Availability of facilities, vendors and volunteers.

The committee discussed different options to consider if the above factors could be satisfied. By fall, our drivers and technicians will have been hard at it for eight plus months delivering supplies, medicine and everything required to keep America safe and healthy – and they will have been doing it despite the same health concerns everyone else has during this pandemic. The trucking industry has been showing up every day because our country needs us, which is why one of the considerations if we reschedule for the fall is to have the event be a combined competition/industry appreciation event.  

We’re not sure what it might look like or how it might be implemented, but we know there is a pent up appreciation for what our industry continues to do throughout this emergency. Stay tuned for updates as health and economic conditions take shape over the summer.
FMCSA Establishes Help Lines for Portal and Clearinghouse Assistance

By now, members of the Maine Motor Transport Association should be familiar with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirement and the necessity to establish a Portal Account with FMCSA in order to register in the Clearinghouse as an employer. If not, you can access an article explaining the process or watch and listen to MMTA’s first webinar that also details the process.

Many motor carriers who have tried to register with the Portal over the last several months have experienced what MMTA is deeming “Portal Purgatory”. This is where motor carriers attempted to register, but were stranded some place in the process. When attempting to restart the registration process, the system does not allow the use of your username or email address due to your first attempt to register.

Other common Portal registration issues involve receiving a java script or other error during set-up, with no ability to finish the Portal link to the Clearinghouse. Previous efforts to receive technical assistance from the Portal Help Desk or the Clearinghouse have been tenuous at best, with long waiting periods on the phone or days to weeks of waiting for a response to email requests for help, sometimes without resolution.

To better assist motor carriers with help with Portal and Clearinghouse issues, FMCSA has established new phone lines for assistance to motor carriers who are experiencing technical issues with set up.

The Portal Registration Call Center’s hours of operation are Monday thru Friday, 8:00 am-8:00 pm, EDT. FMCSA is continuing to work on streamlining support for this effort.

FMCSA Portal Registration Call Center

If motor carriers have questions about using the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, they may call the Clearinghouse Help line or obtain online assistance from the Clearinghouse Help Line:

Clearinghouse Help Line

For new set-ups, both the Portal and Clearinghouse process seem to be working correctly and problems during the set-up have been much fewer.  Randy DeVault and Tim Doyle are both able to assist members with the process. In order to help, members will need their USDOT PIN # and access to their email and phone when calling.
ATA Cancels 2020 National Truck Driving Championships
April 6, 2020

The NTDC Committee of the American Trucking Associations has decided that in consideration of the health and safety of the drivers, volunteers and attendees, and in the interest of preserving the integrity of the national competition, it would be in the best interests of all involved to cancel the 2020 NTDC/NSVDC.  Click here to read ATA President and CEO Chris Spear’s letter.
Lodging and Accommodation Restrictions
April 6, 2020

As you likely have heard, many states (including Maine) have issued executive orders restricting the rental of hotels, motels, AirBNB, etc. for travelers. We have yet to hear about any state that does not exempt trucking specifically, or essential workers generally, from this restriction. If we hear anything different, we will let members know through this e-newsletter.

From Maine’s perspective, here is the section of the latest executive order issued by Governor Mills that we think speaks to trucking’s exemption from the lodging operations and accommodations closure requirement:

Lodging may be provided only for the following purposes:

b. Providing accommodations for health care workers, or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety or critical infrastructure. 

As readers of this e-newsletter already know, trucking was included in the Department of Homeland Security’s “ GUIDANCE ON THE ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKFORCE” that was adopted by Governor Mills’ executive order on March 24th.

Obviously, our drivers and vendors responding to the needs of the trucking industry need safe places to stay when on the road and we appreciate Governors recognizing the importance of what our members do to keep grocery store shelves full and pharmacies stocked.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Maintenance Operations of Fleets and Service Providers

In March 2020, ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) decided to conduct a series of member surveys to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the maintenance operations of fleets and service providers. TMC’s first survey, conducted in the early phase of the event in late March 2020, investigated current and anticipated impacts on technician labor force readiness and commercial vehicle component supply chains.

The survey found actual average impacts in both areas were minor as of March 31. However, shop support supplies were more moderately impacted. TMC members say they expect minor-to-moderate impacts on labor and supply chain categories during April 2020. The ability to recruit, hire and train new or replacement technicians is reported to be a more immediate problem, with moderate disruptions currently being encountered.

TMC intends to repeat this survey periodically during the pandemic event to measure the ongoing risk to maintenance operations and essential transportation functions.

Federal Highway Administration Issues Notice Allowing for States to Permit the use of Food Trucks in Rest Areas to Serve Commercial Truck Drivers
FHWA - 4/3/20

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) today issued a notice to State Departments of Transportation that the agency is suspending enforcement measures under the Federal-aid Highway Program for States that choose to permit commercial food trucks to operate and sell food, in accordance with state laws, in designated federally funded Interstate Highway rest areas.

“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” said FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason. “I am grateful to our state transportation partners for bringing this idea to the Department and for their leadership in thinking outside the box. It is critical to make sure truck drivers continue to have access to food services while they’re on the job serving our nation during these challenging times.”

By statute, commercial activity in the federally funded Interstate right-of-way is prohibited with limited exceptions. The FHWA Administrator has the discretion to take any action deemed appropriate to bring a State into compliance with these federal requirements. However, given the extreme and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Administrator Nason is choosing not to take remedial measures against States that allow food trucks to provided food in rest areas off the federally funded Interstate right-of-way for the duration of the national emergency declared by the President in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Since these actions are temporary, States must come back into compliance with federal law once the Presidentially-declared emergency ends. Any States that do not come back into compliance after the emergency is over may be subject to remedial measures designed to achieve compliance.

We will keep MMTA members posted as new information comes in. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to email Tim, Randy or Brian if you have questions.