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Keeping Truck Drivers Safe from COVID-19

The COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak has quickly changed the reality of how we live and work across the United States. Large areas of business are on hold with millions of workers safe distancing at home. Even so, many truck drivers are still hauling freight as part of the essential workforce meeting the nation’s critical needs. Being an essential worker during the pandemic means facing uncommonly high levels of health risk. While many places are taking disease prevention seriously, truck drivers may still find it hard to fully avoid close social contact and unhealthy conditions while loading, making deliveries, using the restroom, and stopping for food and fuel. Infection risk and severity of symptoms intensify for older drivers and those having pre-existing health conditions like diabetes and lung disease. Drivers also worry about where to get medical help and how to self-quarantine if they get sick while far away from home. This all means that truck drivers should take extra care and preparation to protect their health. The following tips for truck drivers can greatly reduce their risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus.

Click on the subtitles to download tip sheets.

Social Distancing on the Road

Talking face-to-face with co-workers and customers is a necessary part of truck driving, but it’s also the fastest way to spread the coronavirus. As a respiratory disease, the germs that cause illness travel through tiny airborne droplets from an infected person’s cough, sneeze, or breath. Avoiding close social contact lowers the risk of contracting and spreading the disease. While truck drivers may not be able to work from home, there are several social distancing measures they can use to avoid the disease on the road:

  • Use a radio or phone to talk to dock managers and other drivers.
  • Avoid going into facilities when it is not necessary, instead, drop and go whenever possible.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people. If this is not possible, wear a cloth face mask or stay away as far as is practical. This is especially important in places with community spread, for older people, and for those with a history of lung disease.
  • Maintain separation in dispatch areas, locker rooms, break areas, fueling stations, loading docks, customer sites, and in other places where people may congregate.
  • If you feel sick on the road, stay in your cab or sleeper, keep away from other people, call your doctor or nearby medical services immediately, and tell your employer.

Wash or Sanitize Your Hands

Carrying packages, opening doors, handling fuel pumps, pressing ATM keypads, eating in public areas, and using public restrooms are just some of the ways that truck drivers touch objects that may be covered with coronavirus germs. The improbability of objects and surfaces always being clean makes frequent handwashing an effective form of disease prevention. Protect yourself and others by taking these steps:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and don’t bite your fingernails.
  • Carry a multi-day supply of tissue paper, soap, and hand sanitizer in your truck.
  • Wet, lather, and scrub your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then rinse with a clean towel.
  • Clean under your fingernails and keep them short and trimmed.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Cover Your Cough and Sneeze

Most times, a cough or sneeze are harmless reactions that protect your body’s ability to breathe. But during a pandemic like the coronavirus or even flu season they can spread germs than cause severe illness and death. Over the several days it make take an infected person to learn they are sick, they may unknowingly risk infecting others if they cough or sneeze into their hands, near other people, and on objects that other people touch. An average cough or sneeze can spray thousands of germs at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and over distances of several feet. The following methods can slow the spread of disease from a cough or sneeze:

  • When you feel a cough or sneeze coming, face away from people, food, equipment, and any objects that people touch.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your upper sleeve.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • If you must spit, use a disposable container with a closeable lid.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

Touching germ-covered surfaces is another way that truck drivers can catch the coronavirus. That’s why it’s important to clean and disinfect surfaces. Germs from an infected person’s uncovered cough or sneeze may land on a surface that you will touch. Cleaning removes and reduces germs, while disinfection kills them. A good rule of thumb is to clean and disinfect areas and objects that you and other people touch regularly. It may take a few extra minutes, but protecting your health using the following steps is worth it:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces before each shift, after each delivery, after maintenance, and if you are slip seating. This includes steering wheels, seats, dashboard, gear shifters, door and grab handles, light switches, CB microphones, cell phones, touchscreens, keyboards, keys, clipboards, tables, desks, countertops, cups, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • Wipe plastic, glass, metal, non-porous, and non-electronic surfaces with hot soapy water prior to disinfection. Carry enough cleaning supplies and disinfectants to last several days. Make sure disinfectants meet EPA’s virus-killing criteria.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidance for cleaning electronics. If none is available, consider using alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70 percent alcohol to disinfect touch screens.
  • To prevent damage, avoid spraying liquids directly onto electronics and never immerse them in cleaning solutions.
  • Wipe down sleeper surfaces and wash bedding and linens.
  • Properly dispose or wash dirty wipes and rags after each use.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after you finish.

Managing Stress

Even during normal operating conditions, truck drivers face job stress from many sources. As the coronavirus outbreak interrupts business as usual, it may intensify job stress for drivers as it drastically impacts their schedules, routes, workloads, and service availability. Not knowing where to buy fuel, food, and supplies and where to get medical aid can be nerve-wracking. As these new worries add to previous ones, truck drivers may feel more stress for longer periods of time. Prolonged, unmanaged stress can impact a driver’s mental and physical health, diminishing their awareness and readiness on the road. Here are some basic stress management steps to help you relax and feel more at ease:

  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Eat healthy food and stay hydrated.
  • Stretch often and have a physical exercise routine.
  • Meditate and take deep breaths.
  • Listen to relaxing music or natural sounds.
  • Maintain personal hygiene.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
  • Keep your doctor and management informed about any health concerns.

Spread the Word, Not the Virus

These are just a few of the basic steps you can take as a truck driver to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus. It’s also important to remember that effective disease prevention requires sharing information with other people. As everyone should be practicing safe distancing as much as possible, social media can be a great tool to help spread the word. As more drivers get informed about how to protect themselves, the risk of getting sick will drop. The goal is to always go to work and come home safe and healthy. More coronavirus protection information and tips for trucking companies and truck drivers can be found at: http://www.keeptruckingsafeblog.org/

 

Keeping Safe from COVID-19

Social Distancing for Truck Drivers

Handwashing: Your Protection Against Infection

Don’t Let a Cough or Sneeze Spread Disease

You Can't Touch This

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

SHARP Program | Department of Labor & Industries | PO Box 44330 | Olympia, Washington 98504-4330

Phone: 1-888-667-4277 | Contact web developer at TIRES@Lni.wa.gov