March 11, 2020
A Health Crisis in Trucking
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry in what some believe to be the worst upset since 9/11. The CDC has report that, as of noon on Monday, March 9, the total number of cases in the U.S. is at 647 with a total number of deaths at 25. All but about a dozen states in the U.S. have been infected with the virus and although Idaho is one of them, the number is rising daily. While health departments across the country are preparing for the potential, fleets have no choice but to brace themselves for the daily impact and the long-term effects.
Sheri Call, executive vice president, Washington Trucking Association, told HDT that her state – which is among the states with the largest number of infected patients – is already feeling the effects of the virus. “I’ve heard from several of our members that so far this year, the Port of Seattle is down by about 50 sailings,” she says. “That’s the kind of decline we’d normally see over the course of an entire year.” — HDTinfo
Covid-19 fears have also impacted the stock market and consumers. March 9 saw the stock market fall to its lowest point in the last 11 years. The impact of the virus along with feuding between Russia and Saudi Arabia on the price of oil, have created havoc on Wall Street. So, while infection is the primary fear for most consumers, the fears of the virus, its impact on supply chain and manufacturing as well as spot rates create larger concerns for the commercial trucking industry. The long-term economic affects in the industry are evolving daily as well but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on health.
Driver Health and Safety for Others
The CDC says cases have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Within two to 14 days after exposure, those infected may begin to have fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for older people and those with underlying health conditions. The CDC is emphasizing everyone especially those in industries like trucking where travel is mandatory, to take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
1. Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
2. Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1-meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
4. Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
5. Stay informed and follow expert advice
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Clearly, truck drivers are responsible for transporting good across state lines and into areas where the virus has had an impact. The CDC goes even further to layout the following for those who have delivered in those areas.
• Follow the guidance outlined above.
• Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.
Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
• If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Unfortunately for drivers, this virus means paying very close attention to tasks that you may take for granted. Make sure to wipe off surfaces and handles or wear gloves when you are able. Based on the job, drivers are more vulnerable to bacteria and virus anyway so, taking the appropriate actions, can be critical. The CDC says that if you have traveled through or in an infected area, keep a close eye on your health conditions for 14 days, and self-quarantine if possible.
Many companies across the country have already cancelled events, conferences and festivals, and in light of precautions, organizers of the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, say they are working to ensure the safety of the thousands of attendees expected at the March 26-28 show. Additionally, two of the largest truck stop chains are also taking precautions to protect customers and employees from the potential spread. And while the flu season generally subsides in March and April, there is not adequate research to suggest that the Covid-19 will follow suit. All the trucking industry can do is follow the advice of the health experts and hope for the best in the months to come.
For more information on preparation and supporting documents for distribution within your company, visit the CDC website.