DOT using Postal Service to step up face mask distribution

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to distribute 15.6 million cloth masks throughout the freight and passenger sector in a ramp-up of efforts by the Trump Administration to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control among transportation workers.

“Transportation workers are on the frontlines of keeping our transportation systems operational during this public health emergency and their well-being and safety is paramount,” commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on May 28.

The masks were secured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will be sent out over the coming weeks through the U.S. Postal Service, according to DOT.

FEMA teamed up with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month to distribute 1 million protective masks to inspection stations, highway patrol field offices, and to motor carriers directly to provide relief to truck drivers. Some drivers have been nervous about a lack of protective gear as they move essential freight across the country during the pandemic.

DOT and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been working with states, industries and stakeholders to ensure that transportation workers receive additional support, DOT noted. In this latest round, highway agencies and motor carriers will be receiving another 2.1 million face masks. Distribution plans for masks to other transportation modes include:

  • Maritime – 2.4 million
  • Freight rail – 2.2 million
  • Aviation – 3.8 million
  • Pipeline – 258,000
  • Mass transit/passenger rail – 4.8 million

Last month the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) wrote to President Trump asking for additional measures to protect truck drivers, including better access to testing facilities and a program allowing drivers to quarantine at nearby motels.