Risks to Truckers During Coronavirus Epidemic
Trucking can be a lonely job during the best of circumstances. Drivers spend extended amounts of time away from family and friends while they drive their rigs across long highways. But driving during a pandemic, with all individuals asked to maintain social distancing of 6 feet, creates a whole new level of isolation. Long haul drivers are spending nearly 24 hours a day in their trucks – cooking, sleeping, “relaxing” all done within the confines of their cab.
Truck drivers are keenly aware that if they contract COVID-19, they have the potential to spread it around over the vast geographic area that they travel. They are also aware that without their continuing to work, not only do they not have an income, but ever increasing demand for shipped goods, will not be delivered. As more and more states ask their residents to stay at home, online sales from companies from Amazon and Walmart are skyrocketing.
And so, truck drivers, many of whom fall into the high risk category for coronavirus, continue to work each day. According to a recent article in the New York Times, truckers tend to be older males with greater underlying health issues than the general population. And few carry health insurance. Yet they continue to work.
Many truck stop restaurants have closed down. Many states closed their rest stops. In response, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association appealed to the US regulator of trucking operations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to require states to keep truck stops open. Pennsylvania, which had closed its state-run rest stops, agreed to reopen 13 of its rest areas for truck parking and provide portable toilets.
FMCSA has also issued a national emergency declaration providing regulatory relief for restrictions for commercial vehicle drivers carrying a variety of goods pertaining to COVID-19 such as critical medical goods, food for emergency restocking, raw materials for the manufacture of essential items, and more.
We all owe these truckers a debt of gratitude for continuing to risk their health under the most trying of conditions, to continue to deliver much needed goods throughout the country.
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