How COVID-19 Has Affected Truck Drivers
When the Coronavirus pandemic began, a nationwide quarantine plan was put into place. Americans were asked to socially distance themselves and stay home for the safety of others. While many people began working from home, not everyone had that luxury. Over the road truck drivers, who arguably already have one of the world’s loneliest professions, have felt an increased sense of isolation as Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements have grown more commonplace. That sense of seclusion, however, is just one of many ways COVID-19 has impacted transportation companies.
Thanks to Coronavirus Warm Meals and Smiles Are Harder to Come By
The restrictions put in place have greatly affected the restaurant, dining, and hospitality industry, but the impact of these restrictions has stretched farther than most realize. Many Americans view going to a restaurant as a way to relax after a long day. In many communities, diners and fast-food places serve as quasi-community centers—a place to bond and catch up over a cup of coffee. But, as executive orders banned indoor dining, these cornerstones of Main Street America were forced to close their doors. The result? A lot of truckers out in the cold.
Richard Lohr, a Savannah Transport driver for 25 years, has experienced this firsthand. “It feels like we aren’t welcome. Most of the time, our only break from the truck is to sit down and grab a meal but now we have to eat in our trucks due to many restaurants being takeout only. I think that’s the hardest part for me.”
To combat the fact outdoor dining options aren’t always big-rig friendly, many restaurant chains now offer industry-specific services and discounts.
Opportunities for Hot Showers Are Hard to Come By
States like Oregon and Washington implemented stricter social distancing guidelines than others. To limit COVID-19 exposure and adhere to these new regulations, many truckstops suspended showers and other amenities. While safety is always a priority, it can be frustrating as a driver to be unsure of when your next shower will be. An article from TruckingInfo.com discusses this issue at length, highlighting tweets from female drivers were often turned away due to “plumbing issues.” A deeper dive into these issues found that these so-called problems were just the workers’ way of avoiding shower sanitation duties.
For more information on the services various truck stops are offering, review this article from Transport Topics.
Constant Sanitation Takes Away from Driving Time
First, there was the paperwork and almost constant tire checks. Now, the CDC has added sanitation duties to your average trucker’s to-do list. It recommends daily cleaning of mattress trays, temperature controls, door handles, seat belts and associated buckles, air ducts, light switches, radio dials, and steering wheels. The organization also reminds drivers to request all third-party inspectors to clean and disinfect the truck before climbing back into the cab. These additional tasks are piled on top of things like constant social distancing, regular symptom checks, and the donning of facial masks.
The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Trucking Depends on Where You’re Standing
While praise for front-line workers is often constrained to those in the medical field, there’s no denying that truckers are just as vital. Without the lifted restrictions on licensing and their willingness to pull long hours, we might still be stuck with a toilet paper or ventilator shortage.
But, while people clamored for PPE and other sanitation supplies, other industries saw interest in their products plummet. This volatile shift in demand left a mark on all sectors of the transportation industry. Transport Services of Sullivan, a bulk carrier based out of Illinois, lost about half of its business during the pandemic. XPO Logistics, meanwhile, characterized the growth of its eCommerce sector as “explosive” in a survey ran by Transport Topics. Many organizations in our niche—specialized and tanker haulers—saw their business drop by roughly 70 percent. Still, whether they ended up working overtime or furloughed, almost every trucker saw some kind of job change as the result of the pandemic.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of industry “winners” and “losers,”, look at this piece from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).
With the patchwork quilt of regulations that sprung from COVID-19, you have to wonder how closely our government thought about the needs of truck drivers and other long-distance travelers. While It is impossible to do what’s best for everyone, it’s easy to overlook those in the logistics industry. At Savannah Transport, we’ve been doing our due diligence to ensure our drivers have access to accepting restaurants and stay aware of the laws that impact their day-to-day work. With the COVID-19 vaccines now making their way to hospitals across the country—due in part to reefer drivers—we’re hopeful that our lives will soon return to a familiar rhythm.
Stay safe out there!