When the entire world is staying inside the safety and comfort of their homes in an attempt to successfully overcome the pandemic caused by COVID-19, American truckers are on the road, delivering essential items throughout the country. Together with medical professionals and other emergency service workers, truck drivers have immerged as unlikely heroes, patriotically fulfilling their duties in these daunting conditions.
However, their services during such times is not without challenges. A lot of truck drivers and driver-operators have lost their jobs. Mr. Jones, 47 year old tucker from Georgia, has been staying home as he suffers from mild asthma, and is vulnerable to corona virus. Like him, many other drivers have voluntarily given up to work due to their age or any other medical condition that makes them more susceptible to the corona virus infection. While many have had to leave their employment as the businesses or clients for which they carried freight, have closed down due to losses incurred during the pandemic-induced lockdown. Several manufacturing plants and auto plants have shut down and refineries aren’t functional. Because of this situation, many truckers and their families have lost their livelihood.
Another big challenge that the truckers are facing is of displacement. Mr. Lucas from Knox’s county, a trucker for past 20 years, has had to spend his nights sleeping in the bunk area of his vehicle. He has kept a large stock of packaged food, and cooks in the back of his truck to keep himself fed. Although, some truck stops have gregariously opened there services for the drivers, however they are too required to follow the strict rules of lockdown as issued by the local authorities. The truck stops have been serving limited items from their menu through their drive-thru, and have to keep their dining areas closed for service. It is impossible for many truck drivers to bring their vehicle to the drive-thru because of the sheer size of their trailers. Also, given the norms of social distancing, the drivers are finding it difficult to park and rest. Many truck drivers have reportedly admitted on surviving only on snacks like cakes and bread, and other cold food. After a long day of work, many hard-working and dedicated truckers are devoid of the simple comfort hot food and a good bed brings.
Given that the worldwide economy has taken a deep plunge due to COVID-19, truck drivers have also had to compromise with their pay. Although they are risking their lives to deliver the essential goods to American people, their livelihood is threatened by the pandemic. There are several of these drivers who left previous jobs to become a trucker because the pay was good, and they could provide a better life to their families. But because of the pandemic, their major struggle is to keep their employment, even if they have to work for much less pay. Marcus, a resident of London and a new father, has been reportedly working for same clients, on same long routes, but instead of a dollar or two per mile, he is getting paid in pennies. Truckers are hoping that by working for meagre payment in these times, they can safeguard their jobs in future.
Many warehouses as well as truck stops have adopted various precautions, and are screening truckers for coronavirus symptoms through temperature checks. According to Mr. Stanforth, a truck driver from Ohio, if a driver is carrying a haul from only one client, they often do not leave their cabin, and loading/unloading is done by warehouse employees. However, truckers who are taking cargo from several clients at a time, ensure to wear disposable masks and gloves, and frequently change them. Drivers believe that people from their profession must also get convenient access to testing so that they know if they are infected or not, and can be quarantined to minimise the spread.
United States has been the worst hit country in this pandemic, with most number of infected and dead people. Knowing the statistics, truck drivers are always at an increased risk of contracting the virus, and taking it home to their elderly, spouses, and kids, as well risking the life of their colleagues. Truckers are facing a huge dilemma – to stay working, earn but risk their lives, or stay home and face potential financial ruin. Although, President Trump has appreciated and praised truckers as foot soldiers, and offered a part of federal coronavirus assistance to them, most of the fund has been used by bigger trucking companies, leaving independent contractors hanging in the middle, with absolutely nothing. Mr. Oxley has had to return to work as an independent contractor even when fully knowing the risk he is taking because he needs to keep his family financially stable.
With a rise in number of truck drivers positive with corona, it has become more important for the truckers to stay on the road or quarantine themselves before returning to their home. Many truckers are also avoiding taking a job that requires them to go to or through New York and Detroit, as these areas have the highest number of corona victims in the U.S. According to Tom Balzer, the president of the Ohio Trucking Association, “The supply chain that we have in this country is extremely fragile. Any sort of disruption to that throws things in a tailspin.” This is why it is, the responsibility of the government, trucking companies and fleet managers to ensure that the truckers have proper safety gear.
Matrack Incorporation, being a part of trucking industry has created a COVID-19 Heat Map that helps truckers know which city, town and county on their route is safer for them to make a pit stop. It is accessible to our clients on their interface, while other truckers and fleet managers can access it here.
Matrack is proud to be associated with truck drivers who are no less than a superheroes, who have been selflessly providing their services to the entire country to ensure that all those who are at home have everything they need. Although, being on the road, every truck driver knows the safety measures they are required to take and the precautions that can save them against this pandemic, nevertheless, we have compiled a list of necessary actions that they must take.
- Keep a good amount of sanitizer, EPA-approved disinfecting sprays and soap with you, so that you do not run out of them while traveling.
- Remember to sanitize your hands, steering wheel, and door handles regularly.
- Sanitize all equipment like; computers, scanners, cart handles used to haul equipment, and toolboxes
- Store several reusable or disposable masks and gloves, and keep changing them when they become ineffective. Ensure to dispose them off properly.
- Deep clean your vehicle, sanitize the steering wheel, dash board and interiors of fleet vehicles, and make sure to avoid contact with the goods that you are carrying. Also, at the loading/unloading, keep as less contact with people as possible and maintain social distancing.
- Coronavirus infection can be avoided by maintaining distance. So where ever you are or go, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others. Try not to touch anything.
- Although some food joints and eateries have re-opened, it is best to carry your own food. You can carry precooked packaged food, and a small stove to re-heat it. You can also carry your own groceries and supplies to cook a fresh meal.
- In case, any of your colleague shows symptoms of the virus, do seek medical help.
- At a fuelling station, use disinfecting wipes to clean the fuel pump handle and keypad before punching the odometer and driver ID. If you are wearing gloves for this purpose, make sure to dispose them off and use a fresh set. In case wet wipes are absent, use tissue to touch the same.
- As States and counties have imposed their own restriction, fleet managers must ensure that the drivers do follow the norms and rules of the local authorities.
- Avoid handshakes at all costs.
- Once the drivers are back from their job, it is important that they self-quarantine and get temperature checks daily. And only return to their homes if they show no indication of infection.
What is more important than ever, that our nameless trucking industry heroes are recognized and remembered for the exceptional services they have been providing to support the entire country. Matrack Inc., as a leading fleet management service provider, salutes their efforts and stands in solidarity with them.