Trucking trade groups and a group of fleets and drivers are urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow truck stops and travel plazas to offer vaccinations to drivers passing through.
Some drivers, however, do not think that is a good idea.
“I don’t think they are sterile enough for that,” said 35-year veteran driver Carla Dickey. “I’m not enthused about that deal.”
But Dickey, a long-haul driver of produce and eggs for Bulkley Trucking Inc. based in Bashear, Texas, understands the sentiment.
“When this pandemic began, we were America’s heroes,” she said. “Now, when it comes time to do the shots, we got kicked to the curb like we always do.”
Letter to the CDC
NATSO, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Truckload Carriers Association, National Private Truck Council, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, and the Tank Truck Carriers co-signed a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
“The very nature of the trucking, truck stop and travel plaza industries allows an opportunity to have an immediate and meaningful impact on the distribution of vaccines to essential truckstop employees and truck drivers,” the letter said.
Distributing COVID vaccines at truck stops and travel plazas would make inoculations easier for “the unique needs of truck drivers who spend hundreds of days each year away from home,” NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said.
Dickey, who is 63, has yet to get a vaccine. “In the town where I live, they are doing the elderly,” she told FreightWaves.
Other than stopping for fuel and showers, Dickey said she avoids truck stops because the initial zeal for cleanliness early in the pandemic has waned in recent months.
“I’ve been in rest stops that are disgusting,” she said. “They only care about masks” being worn.
Texas this week lifted a state requirement for mask wearing. Dickey said she will still wear one in crowded areas.
“The pandemic is far from being over,” she said.
Owner-operator Stephen Halsted said he disagrees with administering the vaccine at truck stops because he thinks the vaccine is “experimental.”
“We don’t know enough about it,” he said. “It’s kind of like the flu shot.”
Halstead and his driving partner, Sandy Goche, do not plan to be vaccinated. Coincidentally, the duo is expediting a load of vaccine containers to the Kansas City, Missouri area next week.
Addressing residency requirements
“Commercial drivers who are unable to access medical services in their home state or while driving a tractor trailer already are accustomed to accessing these service(s) at truck stops and travel centers,” Mullings said.
Many states require proof of residency to receive a vaccine. First and second shots should be allowed in different locations since it is unlikely a driver would be near the site of his or her first injection on a specific date or time, NATSO sad.
“We cannot expect drivers — some of whom are actively transporting the vaccine — to return to their home domicile in order to receive the vaccine,” said Dan Horvath, ATA vice president of safety policy. Removing the red tape will assist in making the vaccine available for those who choose to receive it.”