FMCSA Extends Emergency Declaration. FMCSA has extended its Expanded Emergency Declaration through May 15, 2020, allowing carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the COVID-19 emergency relief efforts to continue operating under the exemptions set forth in the declaration through that date. The agency also expanded the declaration’s list of covered services to include the transportation of liquefied gases used in refrigeration or cooling systems. Lastly, the agency clarified that, in addition to other regulations referenced in the Expanded Declaration (e.g., drug/alcohol testing, CDL requirement, hazardous materials rules), drivers operating under the declaration are not exempt from 49 C.F.R. 392.2 – relating to the operation of commercial motor vehicles in accordance with state laws such as speed limits and traffic restrictions – or 49 C.F.R. 392.3 – relating to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s alertness is so impaired or likely to become impaired due to fatigue or illness as to make it unsafe for him/her to continue doing so.
Current Economic Conditions of Trucking. The pressure to restock grocery stores and distribution centers stripped by COVID-19 buying has quickly given way to a slump for truck freight. While consumers are staying at home, the need to re-stock grocery stores has made it less urgent. At the same time, businesses deemed “non-essential” slowed or stopped freight shipments, reducing demand. The biggest drop in loads was in refrigeration, which plunged 39.4%. Flatbed loads plummeted 34.6%, dry van loads fell 31.5%, and specialized loads slowed by about 20%. Commercial vehicle traffic volumes have seen an overall drop across the United States and Canada as a result of COVID-19, even while heavy-duty trucking activity remains robust. While commercial vehicle movement surrounding warehouse and retail stores has dropped 20-30%, the flow of commercial vehicle traffic to grocery stores has only declined 10% since March 15, 2020.
State Manufacturers Directories. If you’re stuck at home, try not to waste your time. This is the time to dig up new customer leads for yourself. Don’t rely on a broker. NTA has access to every manufacturer in the United States. These directories are updated each year and can be bought on our website (www.ntassoc.com). Once on our site, click on the “Benefits G-Z” tab, then go to our “Super Store” and find “The Ultimate Shipper’s Directory by State Order Form.” Keep in mind there is absolutely no reason for you to buy one every year. I would suggest every three years, because businesses may change. Each directory has six classifications: 1) Industry – use this section to find suppliers of a particular product; 2) Alphabetical – each company is listed in alphabetical sequence, followed by its address and phone number; 3) Geographical – each company is listed by city and contains as many as 30 different facts per company like names of executives, number of employees, years in business, product description and more; 4) Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) – each company is listed under its SIC code so that you can pick out the freight you want to haul; 5) Parent Company – each parent company/home office is listed, followed by its subsidiaries in the state; and 6) U.S. Expansion & Relocation Guide – a state-by-state breakdown of facts and figures to aid their planning decisions (contains relevant information about each state’s manufacturing climate, industries, tax rates and business incentives. Also features listings of organizations that can assist companies seeking to relocate or expand). With this directory in hand, there is no reason that you could not develop your own Letter of Introduction describing your company and what it can offer. Describe the advantages of using a dedicated transportation company. Describe the equipment you have to offer. Offer them a piece of your PIE: Professionalism – the level of competence or skill they should expect; Integrity – your commitment to honesty and to do what’s right; and Efficiency – by improving efficiency they can reduce their costs. For those of you who lack confidence, simply search “how to write an introduction letter” and you will receive more than a page full of sample letters and ideas. Then, follow-up on your letters in a week to try to drum up business of your own. If you aren’t sure what rate to charge, we can help you with that. Go to the NTA website (www.ntassoc.com) and click on the “Benefits A-F” tab. From there, go down to the DAT Load Board and, at the bottom of the page, there is a video on this exact topic.
Owner Operators Can File for Federal Unemployment. Pursuant to Section 2102 of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) enacted March 27, 2020, individuals not otherwise eligible to receive state unemployment compensation benefits or extended federal benefits, including self-employed persons and independent contractors (ICs), may qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funded by the federal government. In order to receive PUA benefits, ICs must show that they are unable to work or can only work a reduced schedule due to one of several COVID-19 related circumstances and provide proof of net income for their most recent tax year. PUA benefits are retroactive for weeks of unemployment, partial employment, or inability to work due to COVID-19 reasons starting on or after January 27, 2020 and ending December 31, 2020. Importantly, state unemployment agencies must administer these unique federal PUA benefit claims – a task they are not necessarily readily equipped to handle via a method separate from typical state unemployment claims handling processes. While certain states appear to be working to implement some form of PUA specific claim administration, the processes are likely to remain largely intertwined since states are required to ensure that applicants are not eligible for other state or federal unemployment benefits before awarding PUA benefits. Not surprisingly, so far, notices of IC PUA claims seem generally consistent with typical state unemployment claim notices. Thus, to the extent motor carriers receive notices concerning IC PUA claims from various state unemployment agencies, they may well be indistinguishable from a normal state unemployment claim. Absent each state’s implementation of a clearly defined process for administering PUA benefit claims, not involving consideration of the motor carrier as an IC’s alleged employer (which creates the potential for reclassification challenges and unemployment tax assessments), the NTA recommends carriers continue filing written objections in response to all notices of IC unemployment benefit claims, explaining that the claimant was not an employee pursuant to each state’s unemployment law. Such responses can also include a statement recognizing that, while the IC may qualify for PUA benefits, such benefits are not chargeable to the carrier.