Truck drivers keep U.S. commerce moving, every day, and through disasters and pandemics. How does an infectious health threat impact the job of trucking?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that the COVID-19 virus spreads when people inhale invisible droplets from other people’s mouths. The recommendation to wear non-medical masks is meant to reduce the “spray” in a cough, a sneeze, or even talking. That schoolyard “say it, don’t spray it” advice was real. The virus may also linger, sometimes for days, on hard materials including plastic, glass, or steel, so hand washing matters.
Keeping a Clean Truck
Before beginning or resuming driving, truckers are wiping surfaces with alcohol-based sanitizer, or a water and bleach solution, or hot soapy water. It takes a few minutes—but most any trucker would agree that’s better than taking days off at home, ill.
- Steering wheels.
- Gear shifts.
- Door handles, both inside and out.
- Surfaces in and around sleeper areas.
We don’t know how long the air in a truck can be infectious if a virus gets inside. Mechanics, wearing gloves and nonmedical masks, must now wipe down surfaces before working on trucks, then wash their hands when finished.
Picking an Effective Solution
Specific disinfectants meet EPA standards for preventing COVID-19. Five tablespoons bleach to one gallon of water is an effective substitute. (Bleach should not be combined with ammonia or cleansers.)
The CDC recommends a minute of wiping time, at least.
For wiping down screens and the inside of the cab between drives, wipes or sprays containing 70% or more alcohol do the job. And knowledgeable truckers are now in the habit of washing wipes and rags after use. Bedding and laundry bags go into the washer without shaking and are washed in hot water.
Navigating the Rest Stops
In public places, truckers are keeping their six-foot distance. When the CDC first issued recommendations, they were hard for local agencies to read in a standard way. Truckers were shut out of areas all together or forced to deal with prolonged waiting. This caused more than a little inconvenience. Commercial drivers, and truck stop employees as well, are deemed essential infrastructure workers by the federal government. Delays for truckers mean delays for grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and pandemic relief sites.
Thus, the trucking industry communicated with mayors, city and county associations, and health officials, to ensure that truck stops would stay open and safely serve commercial truckers. It is possible to move in and out of truck stop areas safely. Travel plazas are typically spacious enough to permit truck drivers to follow the 6-foot minimum social distancing spacing, while still allowing for customer use of these spaces.
Handwashing, sanitizing, and keeping safe distances between people are becoming the new routines.
Yet now, as always, commercial trucking professionals are doing our part to deliver more than 70 percent of all goods used throughout the United States.