Trump & truck­ers: Is it re­ally love?

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

JUST A MONTH AF­TER UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hon­oured a hand­ful of truck­ers at the White House, there was an­other Trump/truck­ers in­ter­ac­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

And for the sec­ond time, there was a de­gree of con­fu­sion about what it was all about – Trump put­ting his own spin on both.

On the first oc­ca­sion, the mys­tery in­volved what (if any) sig­nif­i­cance the keys he pre­sented to four driv­ers car­ried. They were sim­ply re­ferred to as “cer­e­mo­nial keys.”

Still, the sen­ti­ment ex­pressed was wel­come, the Pres­i­dent say­ing he’d called the truck­ers to the White House be­cause he wanted to cel­e­brate “some of the he­roes of our na­tion’s great strug­gle against the coro­n­avirus: Our brave, bold, and in­cred­i­ble truck­ers.

“At a time of wide­spread shut­downs, truck driv­ers form the lifeblood of our econ­omy…..the ab­so­lute lifeblood.

“In the war against the virus, Amer­i­can truck­ers are the foot sol­diers who are re­ally car­ry­ing us to vic­tory.”

A month on, a Trump press con­fer­ence on a COVID-19 vac­cine was in­ter­rupted by the sound of truck horns blast­ing – gen­er­ated by hun­dreds of truck­ers whose rigs had lined Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue out­side the White House for a few weeks.

They were protest­ing the crip­pling, rock-bot­tom freight rates that they’ve been of­fered by freight bro­kers since the ini­tial flurry of pre-lock­down work dried up.

The mo­ment at­tracted a huge amount of me­dia at­ten­tion….mostly be­cause the Pres­i­dent reck­oned that the driv­ers’ protest was in fact a “sign of love. Do you hear that out­side, that beau­ti­ful sound?” Trump re­port­edly said.

“Those are truck­ers that are with us all the way. They’re protest­ing in favour of Pres­i­dent Trump, as op­posed to against him.

“Hun­dreds of trucks out there. And that’s the sign of love, not the sign of your typ­i­cal protest. So I want to thank our great truck­ers. They like me, and I like them. We’re work­ing on some­thing to­gether.”

He’d said some­thing sim­i­lar the pre­vi­ous day, when truck horns in­ter­rupted a tv in­ter­view.Trump in­sisted: “Well, they’re not pro­test­ers. They’re sup­port­ers of me be­cause we are get­ting things for the truck­ers – and all those great truck­ers that are all over the coun­try. They’re honk­ing and they’re re­ally very thank­ful that I’m Pres­i­dent, frankly.”

US news me­dia clar­i­fied that the long lines of parked-up trucks were re­ally there as a truck­ers’ protest – de­mand­ing gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion to cor­rect spot-mar­ket rates that were down 54% on April last year.

Some driv­ers also com­plained that the $US2tril­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus bill that Trump ap­proved at the end of March did not pro­vide them with any sup­port.

One pro­tester told US me­dia that the rate to haul a truck­load of freight from North Carolina to Los An­ge­les had dived from $US4700 two months ear­lier, to $US2700.

“We don’t need memes and news con­fer­ences say­ing ‘We sup­port truck­ers,’ ” he said: “We need fuel to stay low, rates to go up, and some type of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance un­til we re­cover.”

Me­dia re­ports say that 350,000 to 400,000 of the al­most two mil­lion truck driv­ers in the US are owner/driv­ers – and many others work for small com­pa­nies that are in des­per­ate need of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

Trump said in one tv in­ter­view that truck­ers were be­ing “price gouged” by bro­kers and said he was “go­ing to take care of them.”

But one Wash­ing­ton protest trucker, Charles Claburn, warned others on Face­book: “You’re a po­lit­i­cal toy! Pla­cated and be­ing used.

“You leave that street (and) it’s over. We need more trucks. They see us, now they need to hear us!”


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