Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Trucking and COVID-19: 5 ways to stay smart, safe, and sanitary


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. There are many types of these viruses, but the disease that comes from SARS-CoV-2 that has generated widespread global concern is referred to as COVID-19, and it has not previously been seen by humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that the virus is thought to spread from people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet) via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes — which can land on and be inhaled by people nearby. The CDC says they are still learning exactly how the virus spreads, the severity the illness can cause, and to what extend it may spread in the U.S.

An important recap

On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of WHO declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” The virus was first spotted and spread in Wuhan, China, and it has since spread to other countries, including the U.S.

Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and China are countries currently categorized as at-risk countries by the U.S. Department of State, with severity levels based off of the number of people affected. On March 11, President Trump signed a proclamation restricting foreign nationals from traveling from Europe (excluding the U.K.) from entering the U.S. for 30 days. This does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

As of March 13, over 145,000 people in 137 countries and territories have been affected by the disease. On March 13, President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency and invoked powers under the Stafford Act to grant federal aid to state and local governments.

So, what are the symptoms?

Scientists have confirmed that it takes an average of five days for people to start experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone who is symptom-free after 12 days of potential exposure is unlikely to get symptoms, but they could still be infectious carriers. Health experts are currently asking potentially infectious people to self-isolate for 14 days in order to avoid spreading the disease to others.

Patients with COVID-19 have experienced mild to severe respiratory illness, which can include the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you live in an area with emerging COVID-19, or have recently been in close proximity to a person with the disease, you should seek medical attention as early as possible.

Who is most at risk?

Based on current research, 87% of the cases in China were in people ages 30 to 79, 8.1% of the cases were 20-somethings, 1.2% were teens, and 0.9% were in children 9 and younger. Of the cases, 2.3% resulted in fatalities — nearly 15% of which were of people 80 or older.

This research confirms which groups the CDC says are most at risk of COVID-19. These groups include:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions, including:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease
    • Asthma

Further, people over the age of 60, and particularly those with pre-existing health conditions, appear to be most vulnerable to the virus.

What does coronavirus mean for the trucking industry?

With people flooding stores to stock up on canned goods, sanitizers, soaps, and other deemed necessities, the trucking industry is one industry currently experiencing a greater increase in volume needs.

Mass purchasing has led the national Outbound Tender Volume Index — the index of daily accepted full truckload tender volumes — to shoot up by 9.3% the week of March 1. For context, this number is typically only seen around the holiday period and in summer or winter shopping spikes. Because of this, our industry has to remain especially prepared.

Preventative measures

From grabbing face masks to stocking grocery carts with hand sanitizers, it’s safe to say that mass coverage has led much of the public to take measures to stay healthy — with some measures more frenzied than others.

With so much public attention, fear, and awareness, it’s difficult to keep track of which tips are essential in the age of coronavirus. Luckily, we gathered five of the most current and vital health tips to keep you safe, whether you’re on the road or in an office.

#1: Don’t be so quick to grab the face mask

According to WHO, you only need to wear a face mask if you are in frequent exposure or close proximity to someone suspected with COVID-19 or if you have legitimate suspicion or knowledge that you could be or are infected with the disease.

These face masks are only effective when combined with frequent hand cleaning, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and soap and water. Make sure your hands are clean when putting on the mask, avoid touching your face while using it (and in general), and discard it in a closed bin as soon as it’s no longer sanitary. Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after disposal

It is of utmost importance that you only wear a face mask if you need one. Countries around the world are not equipped with a supply of face masks for their entire populations, and it’s imperative that these masks are left for people who really need them. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said manufacturers need to boost production of masks by another 40% to keep up with current demand.

#2: Remain hyper aware of your surroundings

If you’re an older truck driver with a serious chronic medical condition, this tip is especially directed at you. Over-the-road drivers can spend time around the entire country, and the virus is more present in some areas than others. Be sure to remain informed on the current risk status of the places you’re stopping along your route. Also, take note of the health of those around you. If someone is coughing or sneezing nearby, try your best to steer clear from any of their potentially transmitted germs.

#3: Keep sanitizing must-haves in your truck and around your vicinity

Whether you work from an office or on the road, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a must. Make sure you practice courteous buying, though. Contrary to what mass hysteria promotes, you don’t need a lifetime supply of hand sanitizer — nor should you have that. Not only does filling up your grocery cart with sanitizer deplete valuable resources from others, but hand sanitizer expires after 2-3 years. While it’s not dangerous to use after that time, the alcohol concentration will typically drop below its useful percentage.

In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has pre-approved these household disinfectants and sanitizing products. Make sure you can access necessary items at both your house and workstation.

#4: Utilize your most powerful weapon — soap and water

Dr. Elizabeth Scott of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons University in Boston recently expressed how imperative hand washing is to combatting COVID-19 by breaking down what solid handwashing results in. You’re physically removing things from your hands, and you’re using the soap to break open viral agents on your skin.

The CDC states that you must wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to You twice.

#5: Be especially courteous

Good hygiene isn’t just good for you — it’s good for the people around you. If you’re a 20-something trucker, for example, you may not be as worried of the ramifications of COVID-19 as an older truck driver with diabetes. If you might have COVID-19, it is highly important to be aware that you can still pass the infection along to someone with ailing health issues.

If you’re coughing or sneezing, be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or into your elbow or sleeve. If you sneeze or cough on your hands, immediately and thoroughly wash them with soap and water, and avoid touching any surfaces. Also, try to stay at home and away from people if you’re sick. 

To learn more essential information on COVID-19, check out WHO’s detailed and helpful Advice for the Public page.