Drawing on the intense media attention gained by defiant Canadian truck drivers and opponents of government mandates regarding COVID-19, some U.S. truckers have launched their own cross-country effort, the “People’s Convoy,” which rolled out on Wednesday from Adelanto, California, bound for Washington.
The plan is to arrive in the D.C. Beltway area on March 5, five days after President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address.
Although truckers who gathered at Adelanto Stadium, home of a minor league soccer club, had a range of reasons for participating in the convoy, all sounded a common theme — they wanted to be heard.
Hundreds of people showed up for the public send-off that started at 10 a.m. PST on Wednesday, though only around 30 tractor-trailers were set to roll from Adelanto as part of the convoy, a source on the scene told FreightWaves. Most of those trucks belonged to convoy organizers.
One organizer told FreightWaves he expects around 1,000 tractor-trailers, along with participants in personal vehicles, including motorcycles, RVs and pickup trucks, to join the convoy at various points along the 10-day “peaceful route” to the D.C. area.
“It’s called the People’s Convoy because this is for every red-blooded person with a heartbeat that is concerned about our freedoms,” Marcus Summers, a 34-year trucking veteran from Millersburg, Ohio, told FreightWaves. That’s the purpose of this convoy is our freedoms are being stripped away from us — the freedom to choose and not have the vaccine forced upon us or to have to wear masks.”
While a map has been distributed and nightly stops have been established, Summers said routes could change at any time.
Convoy’s precise destination in dispute
Although the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s efforts to mandate businesses with over 100 employees require vaccinations and all truckers are exempt when driving domestically, Summers, one of the organizers of the U.S. convoy, said they are supporting doctors, nurses and law enforcement personnel who were forced to “get the jab or were fired.”
The convoy’s press release stated that it would “abide by agreements with local authorities and terminate in the vicinity of the DC area” and would not go into Washington proper, but not everyone was on board regarding the final destination.
“I’m sure we’re allowed to go into D.C.,” Summers told FreightWaves. “I can’t give out those details as of now, but I’m sure we can pretty much go anywhere we want. A lot of people don’t realize that truckers are the lifeblood of America, and that without us, you would die unless you want to live off the land.”
When Canadian truckers started protesting the cross-border vaccine mandate and blocking border crossings, Wayne Cragg, a former truck driver and now a freelance photographer who lives on the West Coast, predicted that U.S. truckers would start a convoy of their own.
He is not hopeful about the outcome.
During his nearly 10-year career, he saw multiple convoy efforts and slow rolls along U.S. interstates to protest overregulation of the trucking industry. Most failed.
However, this convoy has him concerned. While the convoy’s overall message is to peacefully protest government mandates, Cragg said most truckers can’t agree on anything so he’s afraid some might not follow the group message.
“This convoy may be disorganized but it’s the most organized one I’ve ever seen,” he told FreightWaves.
On message boards, some truckers are actively trying to get loads that would get them to Washington around the time of the president’s address, Cragg said.
Law enforcement says it’s aware of the convoy headed to the Beltway, a Maryland State Police (MSP) spokesperson told FOX 5 on Monday.
The MSP statement reads:
“The Maryland State Police is aware of potential protests planned by truck drivers in and around the Maryland National Capital Region,” the news outlet reported. “While monitoring the situation throughout the country, Maryland State Troopers from the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, the Automotive Safety Enforcement Division and barracks around the region are working with federal, state and local agencies to monitor developments. State police are coordinating with public safety partners in neighboring states and will be ready to respond appropriately with adequate resources to ensure the free flow of traffic throughout the routes of travel.”
Truckers support convoy efforts
While some truck drivers are participating in the full 2,500-mile journey to the Beltway, other owner-operators, like Gerald Johnson, a 30-year trucking veteran from Mansfield, Missouri, known as “Trucker G,” is only going halfway.
Trucker G’s dad needs a heart valve replacement so he and his wife, “Mrs. G,” are starting in California but only going as far as Missouri.
He was on initial calls with convoy organizers but backed away from a leadership role when no one could tell him who was supplying funds to cover fuel expenses after the group originally stated that it wouldn’t accept donations.
“I’m a man of my word,” Trucker G told FreightWaves. “I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I told everybody I was going to be here and so I’m here.”
He and Mrs. G are just “supporting their brothers and sisters” and recording live videos on Facebook for convoy followers.
The convoy has reversed its initial plan not to take donations. So far, the group has received nearly $465,000 in donations through a website set up by the American Foundation for Civil Liberties & Freedom, a 501(c)3. The site said donations will be accepted via credit card, check or gift card, or cryptocurrency. The group’s other fundraisers include riding shotgun for a day — $5,000 to spend the day in one of the convoy’s trucks — and an auction, which starts at $250,000, to ride on the Operation Headquarter Bus for the week to watch “history being made.” As of Wednesday afternoon, no bids had been placed.
While Summers said truck drivers participating in the convoy will be reimbursed for fuel expenses, he acknowledges there isn’t a clear plan for how those funds will be distributed.
The organization is trying to avoid having its funds frozen, as happened to donations sent through GoFundMe and GiveSendGo in the U.S. and Canada to the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada.
Prior to the Super Bowl, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had issued a warning that a convoy of truckers protesting against COVID-19 vaccine mandates could impact the final game of the season for the National Football League. However, the People’s Convoy issued a statement that it had no plans to disrupt the Super Bowl and that DHS confused the group with a separate organization called Shut Down the Super Bowl Medical Freedom Protest.
However, the People’s Convoy did change the start date and location of the convoy, which was to begin on March 4 and 5 in Coachella Valley in Indio, California, before heading to Washington, but no reason was given for the change.
Trucker Bob Bolus of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who has been involved in the trucking industry since the oil crisis in the 1970s, told FreightWaves he was planning to convoy around the state’s capital in Harrisburg before heading to the D.C. area.
On Wednesday, he said he planned to lead a convoy of trucks. However, few showed up to protest with Bolus. He recently had his trailer redesigned to ensure that lawmakers and the motoring public were clear about why he was participating in the People’s Convoy.
While the convoy originating in California left only on Wednesday, Bolus told FreightWaves his group, the Towers & Truckers for America & Canada, planned to “soften them [law enforcement] up” as the convoy rolls into the Beltway in the coming days.
“We’re gonna put the fear of the devil in them,” Bolus told FreightWaves. “We’re the power in this country, not them, the government; they work for us.”
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