When we think about the people in our communities who definitely can’t work from home, we most often think of emergency room doctors and nurses, and rightly so. However, there are many workers on the front lines in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 who may not be top of mind for most people, yet their contributions are vital to allowing people to get food and supplies in this critical time.
Whether you’re buying your food and essentials from a store or getting them delivered, those items most certainly spent part of their journey to your home on a truck driven by one of the over 3 million professional truck drivers in the United States. Since most the country is under some form of quarantine order or another, food, essentials, and medical supplies are nearly entirely moved only by professional drivers.
Some drivers regularly travel thousands of miles as part of a supply chain that keeps grocery store shelves fully stocked. If a driver were to get sick far from home at a time when there is no guarantee of testing, they may be left with few options and they even might get stranded. With so many businesses closed, many drivers will rely on truck stops and travel centers for rest, fuel, essentials, and supplies. In Some cases, these facilities may be the only ones available for drivers who are far from home.
The National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), a trade association based in Washington D.C. that represents the truck stop industry keeps a directory of stops and travel centers on their website to make it easier for drivers to locate facilities near them.
What if a driver gets sick?
Each trucking company is likely to have a different set of policies for its employees. In March, new Federal legislation was signed into law, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The law requires employers with less than 500 workers to provide additional paid sick leave to their employees. Some of the provisions that require employers to provide additional paid leave to an employee situations where an employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, or to someone is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking diagnosis. There are also provisions requiring higher compensation rates for some employees. However, there are exceptions to these rules given to some smaller businesses whose viability would be jeopardized by enacting these provisions. These new rules are set to expire at the end of 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued some guidelines to help delivery drivers stay safe while working. Some of these tips can also apply to long-haul truckers. Additionally, truck drivers should be diligent about taking all the precautions they can to prevent the spread of this virus.
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but wash your hands:
Hand sanitizer may be helpful to have in a bind. However, it doesn’t substitute for washing your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. This may seem like overkill, but you should wash your hands every time you get fuel, use the washroom, or before you eat. Just think about how many people touch a fuel pump or use the bathroom every day. In fact, try to avoid things that multiple people come into contact with, like buffet style dining facilities or public computers.
Finally, if a driver does get sick – stop working. You should contact your company’s safety department as soon as you feel ill. Not only are you risking getting someone else sick if you keep working, but it’s also unsafe to operate a rig if you’re sick or fatigued.