The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly changed several things about the world we live in. From cancelled school to working from home, 2020 has come with its share of stress for everyone. Virtually every occupation and profession has suffered from some type of modification to how work gets done. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocols, however, might seem to not affect long-haul truck drivers.
Driving by yourself in an enclosed cab might seem like one of the safest places to be while a global pandemic rages across the world. However, long-haul truck drivers are not exempt from being at increased risk to infection. Below, we’ll look at how truck driving during COVID has changed, and how long-haul truck drivers can stay safe despite the risk.
Truck Driving And COVID-19: What Has Changed?
While millions of businesses shut their doors either temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic, the truck driving occupation might have actually seen an increase in demand. According to data released by IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift from physical stores to online shopping by roughly five years. During the second quarter of 2020, physical department store sales and those from other “non-essential” retailers saw their sales decline by 75 percent. At the same time, e-commerce in general is expected to grow by almost 20 percent in 2020 alone.
The growth in e-commerce sales during the global recession actually led to a potential shortage of truck drivers earlier this year. The closure of DMV offices and other limiting factors caused by the pandemic made it harder for new truckers to obtain licenses. Accordingly, some experts estimate that in 2020, the United States will license around 40 percent fewer new truckers during 2020.
Despite the challenges that the pandemic has caused to the global economy, it does seem that truck drivers have escaped the worst of scenarios in terms of demand. As the economy begins to pick up the pieces and “restart”, the trucking industry will most likely be one of the first to see a quick growth in demand. That doesn’t mean, however, that truck drivers are safe or immune from the potentially devastating health effects associated with COVID-19.
How Long-Haul Truck Drivers Can Stay Protected
The average age of a commercial truck driver in the United States is 55 years old, and over 94 percent of these drivers are males. This demographic situates truck drivers firmly within the higher risk category for negative health effects from COVID-19 infection.
The over 2 million long-haul truck drivers in the United States drive over 200 billion miles each year, thus making it close to impossible to avoid COVID “hot spots.” Furthermore, during their long travels, drivers generally have to interact with a wide array of people, including workers from the transportation and warehousing, retail trade, and manufacturing sectors, as well as other roadway travelers. This contact does increase the vulnerability of truckers to COVID-19 infection.
To make matters worse, truck drivers generally work in what have been called “healthy living deserts,” where a lack of health‐supportive resources combined with unhealthy work environments combine to cause unhealthy outcomes. Truck drivers are exposed to a variety of air pollutants while on the road and in warehouses, and generally have poor diets, a lack of physical activity, poor sleep habits, and high rates of cigarette smoking, all of which increase the risk for negative COVID outcomes.
Due to this increased vulnerability, truck drivers should make it a priority to develop a prevention plan with their employer. The CDC recommends the following to truck drivers: “Make a plan with your employer and your family as to what to do if you become sick while you’re on the road. Include where to stop, where and how to seek medical advice and treatment, and plans for freight delivery.”
Work-Fit specializes in bringing sports medicine expertise to the workplace, offering on-site and remote injury prevention and management for your truck driving employees. From telehealth services to wellness management, Work-Fit’s professionals can help your company develop a personalized performance plan for your truckers while also helping to improve overall health consciousness, especially relating to the increased risks that come within the trucking industry.
The best way to protect from COVID-19 infection is prevention. Contact Work-Fit today to see how you can enhance your safety program and prevention protocols to more effectively support your entire workforce.