Truck drivers face rough road during coronavirus pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control issued special guidelines for long-haul truckers and their employers. It recommends drivers wear cloth face coverings in public when social distancing is difficult, to regularly wipe down high-touch areas of their trucks, like door handles, and make a plan with their employers and families for what to do if they get sick on the road. The CDC advises trucking companies to provide masks and other personal protective equipment and information on COVID to employees.

The federal agency recommends that employers consider drafting non-punitive emergency sick leave policies if sick leave is not offered. The agency also suggests that employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a doctor’s note for sick drivers to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave or return to work. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were few drive-through COVID testing sites that could accommodate trucks, making it hard for a driver who got sick on the road to get tested.

More testing sites are allowing truck tractors to come through, but there is a still problem with facilities not taking out-of-area residents, and many truckers are far from home, said Bob Stanton, a Batavia-based long-haul trucker and co-founder of Truckers for a Cause, which focuses on driver health issues. Stanton, 62, is a Type 2 diabetic on high blood pressure medication who has sleep apnea, and his wife is a Type 1 diabetic. Because of their health concerns, if either got COVID, “it’s probably not going to go well,” Stanton said.

In late March, when it was apparent how serious the pandemic had become, “we had a long, heart-to-heart talk about whether I should go back to work.” They decided they couldn’t afford for him not to go back on the road.

Stanton noted that because most truck drivers don’t have sick pay, they will work while suffering possible coronavirus symptoms.

“They’re contagious and possibly spreading disease the whole time,” Stanton said.

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