• Some 15.5 million trucks move 70% of the freight across the U.S. annually
  • Trucking companies operate on a less than 5% margin
  • The ATA has distributed 4,000 face masks to small and midsize companies at no cost and acquired 100,000 more to be distributed by state associations at cost

The American Trucking Associations on Friday urged the federal government to make it a priority to supply truckers and trucking companies with personal protective equipment and to expand testing to keep freight moving across the United States to avoid disrupting supply lines as the nation attempts to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The trade group said the industry would not seek a bailout but needs access to loans to “weather this storm.”

Some 15.5 million trucks traverse U.S. roads, carrying nearly 70% of freight worth $671 billion transported annually. Freight from Canada and Mexico is worth nearly $500 billion more.

“If our workforce were compromised, our ability to move goods, both regionally and nationally, would be jeopardized—with the potential to trigger major disruptions to essential supply lines,” the trucking association warned in a press release, adding that protecting supply chains is critical.

“Truckers are the difference between store shelves getting restocked and remaining empty. They’re why doctors and nurses have PPE to protect themselves while treating the sick. They’re how test kits get to the high-impact areas so local officials can mitigate the virus’ spread,” the trade group said, adding truckers will be just as essential during the recovery.

The trade association said it has provided 4,000 face coverings at no cost to small and midsize carriers and acquired 100,000 more to be distributed through state associations at cost. It also has acquired 10 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer to place along major freight corridors.

The ATA said Congress needs to keep funds flowing through the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program and other small business loan programs to keep small and midsize companies afloat. Trucking companies generally operate on less than a 5% margin.

The trade group encouraged lawmakers to consider an infrastructure program to fix the nation’s highways and bridges, whose disrepair costs the trucking industry 1.2 billion hours annually with drivers caught in traffic and construction zones.

“Absent urgent action, this will be our next big crisis – one that’s been decades in the making – because of lapsing investments, degrading roads and bridges and exploding national debt. America’s truckers, farmers, business and labor communities stand together in calling in calling on Congress and the president to fund a comprehensive infrastructure bill this year,” the organization said, adding such a measure would prime the economy for a comeback after the coronavirus threat recedes.

President Trump and House Democrats have said Congress should pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill as part of an economic recovery program, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed reluctance.

There are 3.5 million truckers in the U.S., an estimated 11% owner-operators, and an estimated 1.2 million trucking firms. The industry employs 8.9 million people at trucking companies and warehouses.