Trump & truckers: Is it really love?
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!”