June 1, 2020
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In separate conference calls held March 25 and March 26 with transportation industry stakeholders, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (seen above) praised the “tremendous resilience and heroic action” of transit workers, truck drivers, and trucking companies in the face of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

“Please pass along my sincere thanks to your staff – and especially the drivers on the frontlines – who are working to deliver food, medical supplies, cleaning products, paper goods and other critical supplies to communities throughout our country; you are true heroes,” she explained in her conference call with trucking industry stakeholders on March 25.

Photo by VDOT

Sec. Chao noted on the call that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is continuing to work with state departments of transportation and others to ensure rest areas remain open so truck drivers have places to safely park. The agency also issued an emergency declaration on March 13 to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide Coronavirus outbreak – a declaration expanded to include haulers of “additional essential items,” including fuel and other raw material, this week.

She added that FMCSA has also granted exceptions for certain expired commercial driver licenses, learner permits and medical certifications that carry through June 30.

Sec. Chao reminded public transportation industry leaders during her March 26 call that the Federal Transit Administration has activated “flexibilities” under its Emergency Relief Program that allow transit agencies to use federal resources to cover expenses related to protecting riders and employees alike.

“All transit providers, including those in large urban areas, can now use federal formula funds for emergency-related capital and operating expenses. This includes enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of trains, buses, and stations,” she stressed.

“Let me note that this also includes placing public hand sanitizers in high traffic areas, and personal protective equipment for workers,” the secretary added. “These costs can now be covered at a federal share of 80 percent instead of the typical 50 percent.”

Photo by the Maryland Transit Administration

Sec. Chao added that due to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, some potential applicants to FTA’s grant programs may not be able to submit timely applications for active notices of funding opportunities regulatory filings. “Therefore [we] will extend the deadlines for each of those NOFOs for 30 days,” she said.

“Transit workers are critical to helping first responders, health care workers, other critical service providers, and people who need to access health care get to where they need to go, as we face this unprecedented national emergency together,” Sec. Chao noted.

“So please pass along my sincere thanks to your staff – especially those on the frontlines – who are working to keep the buses and trains running and providing essential services in our communities,” she emphasized.

editor@aashto.org

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