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How These Covid Prevention Guidelines Got More Trucking Companies to Embrace Technology

Written by: Rick Acosta

Many fleets across the country have stepped up their game with new protective measures to ensure the safety of their drivers. Surprisingly or not, this has led many companies to embrace digital technology.

As we all know, trucking is a critical part of the infrastructure of the nation. Where other industries can pause and take proper social distancing measures to minimize the risk of virus spread, the trucking industry cannot.

It’s impossible to prevent human to human contact, but that doesn’t mean all trucking companies should proceed with “business as usual”. To help trucking companies understand what they can do to prevent further spread of the pandemic influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this guide for cargo trucking crews.

The entire guide is dry and heavy to read, so I’ll attempt to summarize it below in plain English. If you work for a trucking company that has yet to make changes to their operations, this might be worth reading. In these times, many large carriers are thinking fast to keep their businesses afloat and their workers safe.

According to the CDC, not adhering to their recommendations could mean temporary workforce decreases of up to 40% as well as interrupting the deliveries of critical supplies.

Recommendations for disease prevention for trucking fleets

Truck drivers in the United States work long hours, with many averaging 65 hours a week. Though truck drivers are often solitary, much of their profession involves face-to-face contact with other people.

A recent study published by Washington State reported that drivers spend 25% of their time handling cargo and other materials.

During this time, drivers are highly likely to make contact with other people and expose themselves to contaminated surfaces and items.

As we mentioned previously, eliminating human contact is not feasible. However, taking measures to limit contact is an important part of risk reduction.

The CDC recommends employers and truck drivers adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Limiting face-to-face interaction during pickup and delivery
  • Limit casual social interactions
  • Not reporting to work if you have symptoms
  • Schedule staggered break-times
  • Alternate delivery schedules or create flexible work hours
  • Communicate digitally through phones instead of in person
  • Avoid gatherings

Many companies are discouraging long-haul drivers from convening at truck stops, encouraging them to instead maintain social distancing wherever they are in an area with many people.

Hygiene policies

As we’ve all learned throughout this pandemic, practicing good hygiene and maintaining sanitary working environments is essential to minimizing negative impacts. As such, it is recommended that all trucking companies take measures to provide their employees with the necessary equipment and training to maintain a sanitary work environment.

Employers should consider training their employees to practice “cough etiquette” and ensuring frequent hand washing. If there is no immediate access to a sink, it’s important that the driver is provided with alcohol based sanitizing gels to keep in the cabin.

Many companies train their drivers to implement the following preventative measures at work:

  • Cleaning cargo door handles, seat belts, steering wheels, mirrors, gear shifts, control knobs, buttons, latches, and handles after each shift
  • Disinfecting shared objects including clipboards, pens, pencils, barcode scanning devices, dollies, hand carts
  • Taking care to disinfect after touching public surfaces such as faucet handles, phones, ATMs

Fleets that take the reduction of virus spread seriously are also advised to look into providing their workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize risk of inhalation of flu droplets and aerosols. This requires proper planning and stockpiling of face respirators and utility gloves.

Making sure your crew is aware of Covid symptoms

Besides stockpiling and disinfecting, arguably the most important part of disease prevention is keeping your crew informed and ready. Though drivers are likely to hear and read about Covid symptoms elsewhere, it is still your responsibility as an employer to clarify your expectations. As a rule of thumb, it is best to advise drivers and other professionals to stay home if they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough

Since many companies cannot afford having their drivers stay home, it is advisable to provide them with a visit to the doctor’s office. Until the driver is able to take time off it is essential that they wear an approved face respirator.

Illness prevention checklist for employers

As an employer, you should take the following steps to avoid illness in your crew:

  • Encourage annual vaccines
  • Ensure your crew understands risk of Covid and take precautions
  • Take measures to encourage good practices in your workplace
  • Provide alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes in areas such as loading docks and dispatch areas
  • Provide tissues and disposal receptacles for your crew
  • Consider policies that encourage symptomatic employees to take time off work

How these policies have led fleets to embrace technology

Following the advice of the CDC, many companies have taken steps to reduce the physical contact drivers have with others. One such company, McKesson, specializing in delivery of medical and pharmaceutical supplies have decided to stop taking electronic signatures when obtaining proof of delivery.

“Rather than having a customer sign the handheld device for proof of delivery, our delivery professionals manually enter the customer’s name to avoid potential contact transmission of any infectious diseases.”

These precautionary measures have also triggered many companies to reevaluate their reliance on paper. In order to avoid the spread of contaminated material, trucking companies are now looking at ways to increase their efficiency while eliminating their reliance on paper.

Another such example is Penske, which have shifted to touchless voice-based validation to confirm deliveries.

Conclusion

The broader point here, individual examples aside, is that many companies are turning restrictions into potential long term advantages. As they build up their resilience during the pandemic, they find new and more sustainable ways to improve their overall efficiency. Some limitations can clearly bring on positive change as it forces companies to think and act smartly within new parameters.

As a company that specializes in helping trucking fleets manage their recruitment in a paperless environment, we are all for technological progress being made in the industry. We know the future of efficiency and success lies in digitalization, and we’re happy to see the industry embrace new and innovative solutions.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that going digital with paperwork leads to better efficiency. So whether it concerns invoicing, proof of delivery, or recruitment, we whole-heartedly support any trucking company that chooses to take steps into digital territory.

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