The coronavirus has changed life around the world, but for those who travel the highways from stop to stop, the dangers are multiplied.
The facilities they rely on are often closed, protective gear is in short supply and their routes often lead into areas most affected by the virus.
In an effort to get needed supplies to the nation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has waived many regulations due to the coronavirus, including longstanding limits on how long drivers can work in the course of a day.
Weight limits have been relaxed in most states and in Missouri, a 10-percent over the limit increase is in effect until April 30.
With the supply chain working overtime, the rule change allows drivers more flexibility in getting a break while keeping up with demand. Crawford said.
“Now they still have some parameters to work under,” Crawford said. “You can’t go eight days. You still have to take a break at the end of the week. It has helped, particularly keeping up with demand at the grocery level and things like that.”
Restaurants are closed to dining room seating and since it’s not possible to drive a tractor-trailer through a drive-thru, getting something to eat, especially at the onset of the pandemic, has been difficult.
“Most have recognized the logistical problems of trucks going through drive-thrus, so restaurants all around the country have figured out ways to get food to drivers,” Crawford said. “Many are delivering cabside and that is very much appreciated.”
Even using the restroom has changed for many drivers, as some states have closed rest area facilities.
“Our colleagues in other states have worked hard to get those re-opened,” Crawford said. “In Missouri we have been lucky enough to keep those open. In one state, early on when toilet paper was a problem, people were going to the rest stops and stealing rolls.”
In areas of the nation most impacted, finding a shower and trying to maintain personal hygiene has been a challenge, Crawford said, as truck stops like other businesses are obliged to limit the number of people inside at a given time.
“So they can only allow so many truckers in to take a shower or a restroom break,” Crawford said. “There were lines of truckers at some establishments just trying to get in to use the restroom. I think most of those have been resolved now.”
While drivers, especially on more local routes, sometimes make dozens of stops a day and interact with an equal number of people, personal protective equipment is in short supply around the world.
Crawford said while that is true for the industry as well, measures are being taken to offer drivers protection.
Companies supplying high-risk routes are issuing drivers PPE and receivers are working to keep them in the cab during deliveries. Many have donated sanitizer to drivers and companies, as well.
“I know they are doing what they can, but with the volume of stops on some routes drivers have, that has been a challenge to be able to get that equipment,” Crawford said. “Obviously you need it on the frontlines in health care. We think it is critical the people in supply chains have it as well.
“It has been an issue, but to my understanding the companies have done a pretty decent job.”
Despite the challenges, Crawford said drivers are taking their jobs to heart as the loss of life due to the virus continues to grow. It is personal to many, that those who depend on them get what they need.
“Many of these men and women spent time overseas fighting for our country and when they get back, they continue to fill that need to serve their fellow human beings,” Crawford said. “Even those without ties to the military have that predisposed nature.
“I am proud to represent this industry and the reason why is the drivers, the men and women getting the job done day-in and day-out in not only this pandemic, but every natural disaster.”
The coronavirus has changed life around the world, but for those who travel highways from stop to stop, the dangers are multiplied.
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