The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines tailored to help long-haul truck drivers and their employers deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the guidelines repeat the disease prevention recommendations that have been in place for the general public for months: social distancing, hand-washing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). But specific details aimed at truck drivers on the road and away from home for days underscore the potential for the virus to spread through the supply chain.
For example, the CDC recommends frequent cleaning and disinfecting of the driver door handle, steering wheel, seat belt and buckle, arm and headrest, seat covers, turn signals, wiper controls, dashboard, air ducts, radio, and temperature controls. In the sleeper berth, light switches, mattress trays, temperature controls and other flat surfaces should be cleaned frequently as well.
The agency notes key times to wash hands: before entering and leaving the cab, including for deliveries, loading and unloading of cargo, rest breaks, fueling, and other activities; before eating or preparing food; and after putting on, touching or removing face coverings.
If third parties, such as mechanics and inspectors, need access to the truck, the CDC advises drivers to request that the third party clean and disinfect the truck before turning it back over to the driver.
In addition to avoiding shaking hands, the CDC recommends drivers use paperless, electronic invoicing for fueling and deliveries when those options are available. It also recommends that drivers get in touch with facilities in advance to make an appointment for unloading cargo, and to use the radio or a phone to speak with dock managers or other drivers.
A survey and analysis conducted in April by WorkHound, a driver feedback platform, found that 27% of drivers wanted to be assured that their companies were taking “extra precautions to ensure that their equipment is safe and sanitized.”
Those concerns were reflected in the CDC guidelines as well. The agency recommended that employers provide drivers with all PPE — including vests, safety glasses and hard hats — that they may need while on the road “so that the driver does not need to borrow PPE from shippers.”
Besides providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol for truck cabs, employers should take additional precautions for drivers to reduce risks associated with ride-alongs or team driving. “For example, install a removable barrier between the driver and passenger that does not obstruct the task of driving and/or to separate sleeper berth,” CDC recommended.
Employers should also prequalify truck stops, rest areas and hotels to ensure that they are open, supplied and following recommended COVID-19 safety practices, such as cleanliness and disinfection, proper food handling and food service (such as replacing self-service with full service), and contactless fuel payment.
It was recommended that trucking companies also put in place flexible sick leave and other “supportive” policies. Some companies, such as XPO Logistics, are providing additional paid sick leave for drivers.
“Consider drafting non-punitive emergency sick leave policies if sick leave is not offered to some or all employees,” the guidelines stated. “Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.”