The current pandemic is impacting every facet of fleet operations. It has also underscored the vital importance of keeping drivers safe and healthy while they’re on the job—no matter the circumstances. As fleets continue to provide essential goods and services, company owners and fleet managers play a crucial role in communicating practical health and safety information to drivers and technicians while maintaining a safe working environment.
Here are a few tips both you and your drivers can follow to help reduce exposure to COVID-19.
What drivers can do
Be vigilant about cleaning the cab/inside of the vehicle:
- Wash down all high-touch surfaces with hot soapy water or a high-alcohol (at least 66%) cleaning solution.
- Pay specific attention to surfaces and instruments like steering wheels and shifting mechanisms.
- Be sure to also clean all switches, buttons, levers, and touchpads (these may require a specialized electronics cleaner) and living areas.
- Launder linens regularly, including cloth laundry bags, and dispose of plastic bags used for dirty laundry.
Be sure to also clean the vehicle exterior:
- Thoroughly clean door handles, mirrors and windows, and high-touch surfaces like trailer doors and tools.
- Follow a regular cleaning schedule that includes cleaning before and after a shift.
- Carefully document cleaning procedures for shared vehicles, and have the process overseen by a supervisor.
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What owners and fleet managers can do
Institute social distancing measures when and where possible:
- Consider having teams travel in separate vehicles.
- Consider having drivers use personal vehicles instead of pool vehicles.
- Stagger working hours to reduce the potential for casual interactions.
- Advise on ways to adjust refueling behavior—drivers should avoid handling the filler and touching the keypad as much as possible, and change gloves and wash their hands right after.
Step up supervisory measures:
- Clearly communicate fleet-related COVID-19 safety procedures to drivers and technicians.
- Enforce face mask and hand washing regimens.
- Regularly document cleaning of vehicles—a vehicle perceived as “infected” may result in drivers flatly refusing to use it, which will idle that asset.
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and proper hand hygiene practices in workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.1
- Provide disposable disinfectant wipes so that surfaces commonly touched can be wiped down.1
- Pre-qualify truck stops, rest areas, and hotels to ensure such facilities are open, supplied, and follow recommended COVID-19 safety practices, such as:1
- Cleanliness and disinfection (such as routine cleaning, available hand-sanitizing stations and private showers);
- proper food handling and food service (such as replacing self-service with full service);
- contactless fuel payment.
- Follow all applicable local, state, and federal regulations and public health agency guidelines.1
Support healthy business operations: 1
- Follow CDC guidance for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Designate a person who is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Drivers should know who this person is and how to contact them.
- Consider using a hotline for employees to voice concerns anonymously.
- Make a plan with your employees as to what to do if they become sick while on the road. Include where to stop, where and how to seek medical advice and treatment, and plans for freight delivery.
- Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices. Consider drafting non-punitive emergency sick leave policies if sick leave is not offered to some or all employees.
- Provide information on who to contact if employees become sick. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Reach out to local public health officials to establish ongoing communications to facilitate access to relevant information before and during a local outbreak.
- Understand that the current environment could elevate stress levels among drivers. Provide resources to help manage stress.
Consider the CARES Act
While some fleets are weathering the storm, others are facing extreme difficulties. In an effort to lessen the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has implemented several programs to aid businesses of all sizes, including the Employee Retention Credit and Paycheck Protection Program, the latter of which has, as of this writing, run out of money.
However, the Employee Retention Credit, which is designed to keep employees on the payroll, is still available. It provides a tax credit of 50% on up to $10,000 in wages. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees in 2019 are eligible to receive the credit for all employee wages, including part-timers, whether they have recently worked or not. Businesses with more than 100 employees in 2019 are only eligible to get a credit for those employees who did not work during the calendar quarter.
These are the businesses that qualify:
- Those that had operations halted partially or fully by government order due to COVID-19.
- Those whose operations are below 50% from the comparable quarter in 2019. Eligible wage period is March 12, 2020, to January 1, 2021, and includes cash payments and healthcare costs.
As COVID-19 and the nation’s response to the pandemic continue to impact your day-to-day realities, it’s important to stay informed. For the latest on the impact of pandemic on the industry, trade and economy, visit our blog.