• For weeks, truck drivers across the US and in Washington, D.C. have protested unusually low pay rates amid the coronavirus.
  • The group of protesting truck drivers loudly honking their horns interrupted Trump during a May 15 press conference.
  • Trump, who was discussing a vaccine to the coronavirus, called the honking a “sign of love.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Protesting truck drivers interrupted a White House press conference on the coronavirus on May 15.

President Donald Trump took a moment away from discussing a potential virus vaccine to praise the drivers, calling their protest a “sign of love.”

“Do you hear that outside, that beautiful sound?” Trump said. “Those are truckers who are with us all the way.”

“They’re protesting in favor of President Trump, as opposed to against him,” he added. “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.”

At vaccine announcement, Trump stops to acknowledge loud honking by truckers. (Who are protesting their pay rates.)

“That’s the sign of love,” Trump claims. “And they’ll be helping us with this, by the way, speaking of truckers.” pic.twitter.com/P1ZEyEzVou

— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) May 15, 2020

The truck drivers were, in fact, protesting rock-bottom rates. Since mid-April, drivers in Texas, California, Washington, D.C., and Arizona have taken to the streets in their big rigs to demand government support.

April rates for spot-market loads, which are trucking jobs tendered in real-time rather than through a pre-arranged contract, are 54% lower than last year, according to data from load board company DAT. Rates in the month of April fell to five-year lows for refrigerated and flatbed loads.

Meanwhile, the $2 trillion stimulus bill that Trump signed into law in late March did not provide any direct support of truck drivers. Several truck drivers who applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration told Business Insider that they were not able to get funding, putting their livelihood at risk.

Here’s a pic of the protesting, honking truckers you can hear during this Rose Garden presser. They are parked along Constitution. (Took this pic on my way home last night.) pic.twitter.com/sNZloRxR5T

— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) May 15, 2020

For truck driver Joe Plummer, the pay to take a truckload of goods from his home base of North Carolina to Los Angeles has plummeted from $4,700 two months ago to $2,700 today. “We don’t need memes and news conferences saying, ‘We support truckers,’” Plummer previously told Business Insider. “We need fuel to stay low, rates to go up, and some type of financial assistance until we recover.”

There are nearly two million truck drivers in the US. About 350,000 to 400,000 of them own and operate their own trucks, while many work for small companies in need of financial assistance. Cass Information Systems said April freight volumes hit 2009 levels, which has obliterated take-home pay for drivers.

Trump has been rallying behind truck drivers in recent weeks. He told Fox & Friends earlier this month that truck drivers are being “price gouged” by the brokers who match them with retailers and manufacturers. Trump said he was “going to take care of that.”

While Trump claims that truck drivers “love” him, their relationship has been a bit rocky in recent years. Several blamed Trump in 2019 for destroying their livelihood as his trade war lowered US manufacturing output.

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Until then, truck drivers like Plummer don’t know if they’ll keep working at all. “We are risking our health and lives to take rates that wouldn’t pay for our business,” he said.

Are you a truck driver with an opinion on President Donald Trump? Email rpremack@businessinsider.com.

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