Truckers Worry. Will They Ultimately Be the Carriers of the Coronavirus?
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is beginning to affect US trucking, but its impact isn’t necessarily what was expected. Truck drivers who haul consumer goods, especially healthcare and cleaning products, are lining up to pick up loads, and getting better rates, as US consumers purchase toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other emergency supplies en masse.
US truckers have yet to face — and hopefully won’t — the kind of restrictions and obstacles truckers in China dealt with, where many drivers were caught up in quarantines, which delayed factories that restarted production lines getting goods to ports.
That's a small hint at what truck drivers could face if the situation in the United States escalates. US truckers may not face the type of restrictions imposed in China, or even Italy — thanks to differences, so far, in the extent of the outbreak in those countries and the nature of trucking networks there. But there could be more speed bumps ahead for US truck drivers beyond paperwork.
Shippers requiring drivers to confirm they’re not among the infected are worried not just about their employees, but about what might happen if a distribution, warehouse, or manufacturing plant were shut down because of exposure to coronavirus. Those who scoff at that possibility should look to the containment zone imposed this week in New Rochelle, New York.
Several truck drivers complained coverage of the coronavirus is overblown. Other drivers were more concerned about the general impact the coronavirus might have on the US economy. But the prospect of getting sick and being quarantined was on the top of everyone’s mind.
Many truckers “can’t afford to shut down,” and will try to “keep plugging,” possibly even if they’re sick... “We will be spreaders [of the virus], unfortunately.” Also, “I have been questioned twice [by shipper customers] about having the virus and told I can’t enter if I may have come in contact with it.” That may be a more common experience in the coming weeks.
Truckers indicate some companies are asking all visitors, not just truckers, to affirm they do not have coronavirus, haven’t experienced cold or flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days, and have not traveled to places where an outbreak has occurred. Truckers should expect more questions from their customers and at delivery docks.
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