There’s an expression in the trucking industry: When the trucks stop, America stops.
In 2019, according to the American Trucking Associations, 10.5 billion tons of freight—almost 71% of total U.S. tonnage—was moved by more than 3.6 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks. The 3.5 million men and women who drive these vehicles are the lifeblood of the American economy.
In 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, we’ll be relying on truckers more than ever to keep hospitals supplied, stores stocked, and government agencies running.
Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s easy to see how the trucking world is starting to be impacted. Below are just a few examples.
Hours-of-Service Laws Temporarily Suspended
Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that drivers moving goods “in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks” will not have to follow HOS laws, which regulate how many hours a driver can work without rest breaks.
According to the FMCSA’s emergency declaration, these types of loads are now exempt from HOS laws:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
- Food and supplies for emergency restocking of stores.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities related to COVID-19.
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.
Visit the FMCSA General Emergency FAQ’s for more info.
Truck Stops and Travel Plazas Intend to Stay Open
The National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) announced that its members intend to remain open and continue to serve the truckers transporting supplies and goods in support of COVID-19 emergency relief.
“Truck drivers are depending on truck stops and travel centers as they deliver food and life-saving supplies,” said Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and CEO. “Our members are committed to doing their part during the nation’s response to this emergency.”
For example, Pilot Flying J recently tweeted, “Our network of over 780 travel centers in the United States and Canada are open and ready to serve you, including laundry, restrooms and showers.” They’re also taking extra precautions like cleaning each shower after each use with degreaser, disinfectant and floor cleaner.
In the effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it’s possible to forget how important these stops are for the safety and well-being of truckers on the move. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania closed all rest areas and welcome centers across the state, including food service and rest rooms.
However, after an appeal from the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, many of these sites have reopened. Restrooms are now open around the clock, and restaurants can provide limited takeout meals.
Drivers Can Reduce Exposure to COVID-19
Truckers don’t have the option to work from home.
According to AAA, when you’re moving from location to location, there are steps you can take to reduce the potential exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus.
- Start your day by washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Throughout the day, if you receive any sort of equipment, spray it with disinfectant spray or wipe it down with disinfectant wipes.
- Keep a pack of nitrile gloves. Wear them for each new job or new location throughout the day.
- When you finish a job, disinfect your hands thoroughly.
- Wipe down the inside of your vehicle—including the door, dash, seat, handles, and any exposed surfaces.
- Keep a small trash bag to dispose of soiled gloves, towels and wipes, and dispose of it at the end of each shift.
- Credit cards, fuel cards, and cash can hold the virus, so it’s a good idea to wear gloves when you handle them.
- At the end of your shift, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
Make sure to use products that will properly disinfect your vehicle. Consumer Reports explains how to kill coronavirus without damaging the interior.