WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s press briefing in the White House Rose Garden on Friday was set to the tune of blaring truck horns nearby. But the honks weren’t “the sign of love” for the president that he said they were.
“Those are truckers that are with us all the way,” Trump said as he made an announcement about coronavirus vaccines. “They’re protesting in favor of President Trump as opposed to against.”
The horns honked as Trump held his briefing to announce “Operation Warp Speed,” an effort to get a COVID-19 vaccine into production and distribution by the end of this year. He paused to acknowledge them.
“That’s the sign of love, not the sign of your typical protest,” Trump said. “So I want to thank our great truckers, they like me and I like them.”
‘If we stop, the world stops’:Truckers brave coronavirus outbreak to deliver goods.
But the truckers have shown up in downtown D.C. for weeks to protest low shipping rates that they say threaten to put them out of business amid the recent economic downturn.
“The services provided by truck drivers are currently in high demand, but at the same time many small trucking businesses are far from certain they will survive today’s economic downturn. With freight rates reaching historic lows, small business truckers are struggling,” said Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President Todd Spencer in a letter to members of Congress.
After an early boom in demand for shipped goods at the onset of stay-at-home orders, truckers are now facing a lack of business or offers with rates they say are too low.
The truckers are also calling for more price transparency between brokers and motor carriers, accusing brokers of skirting regulations requiring them to disclose how much shippers paid them and how much they then paid the carriers. The organization representing brokers told The Washington Post the rates are due to the current state of the market.
Trump acknowledged truckers’ concerns in a “Fox & Friends” interview earlier this month, saying the truckers were being “price gouged.”
“All they want is to be treated fairly,” Trump said in an interview. “And we’re going to treat them fairly. What they’re asking is almost nothing in many cases … we’re going to take care of them.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows visited with truck drivers demonstrating in Washington on Thursday, according to spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.
“@RealDonaldTrump & the American people stand with America’s truckers!!” Farah tweeted.
Contributing: The Associated Press