Over the last few weeks, it has been impossible to go online, turn on the TV, or listen to the radio without being immersed in news media coverage of the Covid-19/novel coronavirus pandemic.
The severity of the situation was initially difficult to gauge, with reports ranging from the horrific (thousands of passengers being quarantined in terrible conditions on cruise ships) to mild (wash your hands, it’s no more deadly than the common flu).
But in recent weeks it has become clear the situation is dire. And truck drivers, by the nature of their jobs, are now finding themselves on the front lines as this has morphed into a full-blown pandemic. Preparation is key. But just how do you prepare for something that is potentially beyond anything the world has seen?
I attended the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention in early March, and queried fleet managers on how they’re handling the situation. Most fleets are falling back on generic disaster preparedness plans that are not specific to a widespread virus outbreak.
But the coronavirus was top of mind for everyone attending the event. Hand sanitizing stations were placed throughout the Gaylord Palms convention center, and their use was enforced at mealtimes. Social media is rife with anecdotal reports that shippers and receivers are placing restrictions on driver access to facilities and donning gloves before accepting documents from drivers. Truck drivers should also exercise caution when interacting with customers and other drivers at shared facilities.
If slipseating, be sure to wipe down surfaces such as door handles, gearshifts and steering wheels with antibacterial wipes. It only takes a minute. Consider it a part of your pre-trip inspection.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has been working with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) to assemble resources for the trucking industry, too.
“CCOHS has always been a great partner and excellent source of information for our industry,” said CTA’s director of public affairs, Jonathan Blackham. “If CTA member carriers are looking for information related to Covid-19/coronavirus-type outbreaks, this is an excellent place to start.”
Most of the resources are inexpensive or free of charge. A complete list can be found at www.cantruck.ca.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website is another good resource, especially if traveling to high-risk regions in the U.S. It includes daily updates on the spread of the virus throughout the U.S., including a heatmap that allows visitors to quickly identify high-risk areas. If there’s any good news in all of this it’s that borders are free of non-essential traffic.
As Today’s Trucking went to press, cases of Covid-19 were increasing rapidly across Canada and the U.S. In Canada, Ontario and B.C. were the epicenters of the outbreak, with fatalities in both provinces.
Public health officials still contend the risk of infection in Canada is low, but also emphasize the need to be diligent. Longhaul truck drivers, whose work takes them across North America with frequent interactions with customers and other drivers, are an ideal carrier for a highly contagious disease such as the novel coronavirus.
At the same time, they play an essential role in delivering supplies needed to mitigate the outbreak, such as masks, medicine, and yes, even the toilet paper that’s been flying off store shelves as a result of panic buying.
While the risk of infection may currently be low, it is still imperative we all do our part as an industry to keep ourselves and others healthy.
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