In the interest of combating the threat of COVID-19, hand washing, social distancing, and regularly wiping down the inside of the vehicle is a good start for a driver. Yet, many additional risks and problems will still need to be addressed.
When at a shipper, receiver, restaurant, or service facility, drivers need to know to maintain a safe distance from other people (6 feet or more). They should also avoid touching anything they are not required to touch. When leaving a facility, drivers should wash their hands (20-seconds with warm soapy water) before getting in the vehicle.
Germs are spread through contact with droplets, either directly or droplets that were left on a surface, so drivers, in general, should always wash their hands immediately before getting in their vehicles. This should help drivers avoid contaminating the surfaces in the cab that they routinely touch. It does drivers no good to be disciplined about washing their hands if they don’t avoid contaminating the inside of the vehicle.
When handling shipping documents and other paperwork, drivers should “handle with care,” and immediately wash their hands. If your drivers use an electronic delivery device, it should be disinfected after a customer has handled it, and the driver should immediately wash his or her hands. Another possibility is having the driver sign the electronic device on the customer’s behalf if that is possible in your operating environment.
Drivers need to give more thought than usual to a basic need: food. With restaurants all over the country closing, drivers are finding it difficult to find a meal. Many of the restaurants used by drivers are now carry-out only, but drivers need to know which restaurants are still providing food. Providing a tool for drivers to share information on where food is available might be something to consider. Also, drivers should try to get food only at reputable restaurants. One advantage of large chain restaurants (fast food) is that they typically have well-established sanitizing policies. Additionally, to avoid parking issues a driver may want to consider a large chain restaurant at a truck stop.
While not a day-to-day concern, obtaining a DOT medical exam or renewing a CDL may become an issue. As the medical industry and government agencies become stressed, it will become harder to get an appointment for a physical or to renew a CDL. Because of this, drivers and carriers need to think ahead, schedule appointments well in advance, and be prepared for delays and reschedules.
There is a temporary exemption related to COVID-19 that allows drivers to ignore the limits and logging requirements. However, this exemption is narrowly focused, as it only applies to drivers hauling in direct support of an emergency related to the outbreak. This includes hauling necessary supplies, restocking empty grocery stores, and hauling supplies for temporary housing set up due to the virus.
Even if not operating under the emergency declaration, drivers can be under pressure to work as many hours as possible. However, carriers must keep the risk of driver fatigue as a top priority. In addition to being less safe on the road, a person suffering from fatigue will generally be more susceptible to infection. If a driver becomes fatigued, allow the driver to rest, no matter what the operational circumstance.
Finally, one consideration is moving drivers from vehicle to vehicle. If one driver is infected and has been in four different vehicles, you now have four vehicles that need to be disinfected and at least four other drivers that have been exposed. Consideration should be given to going to an assigned vehicle model and developing in-house procedures for disinfecting vehicles after every shift when drivers are assigned a different vehicle.