April 8, 2020 10:15 AM, EDT

Driver Health Becomes Paramount During Coronavirus Outbreak

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Trucking companies are doing a lot to keep their drivers safe and healthy even as the coronavirus pandemic has caused notable disruptions throughout the economy as the number of infected continues to climb.

Truck drivers have played a critical role in keeping the flow of goods moving throughout the crisis, and protecting them is a key part of making sure they continue to do just that.

“We’ve worked really hard on this for the last several weeks,” Tom Regan, vice president of dedicated transportation solutions at Ryder Supply Chain Solutions, told Transport Topics. “With our procurement team we thankfully got ahead of this on a supply front. That has been critical for us to keep all of our associates safe.”

“We established metrics in terms of how much we think our drivers need,” Regan said. “Every driver gets a 16-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer every week. Until they say stop we’re sending it out to them. Same thing with gloves, disinfectant spray, two rolls of paper towels weekly. We don’t want any driver to say they don’t have what they need to remain safe in this environment.”

The company has at least a two-month stockpile for all critical supplies, he said, adding that being in the supply chain business helped in that effort. Everyone is also responsible for cleaning, and a third-party cleaning company comes in on a regular basis.

Likewise, Werner Enterprises CEO Derek Leathers said the company has a multipronged approach.

“The first line of defense is continuously trying to distribute and make available to our drivers sanitization supplies, predominantly in the form of hand sanitizer and where available wipes and disinfectant sprays,” Leathers said.

J.B. Hunt provided employees with supplies like hand sanitizer and gloves along with work-from-home policies. Old Dominion Freight Line said in a letter March 18 it is reinforcing the need to clean and disinfect regularly along with frequent hand-washing. Mullen Group launched a coronavirus action plan that includes such employee safety protocols as rotating work-from-home schedules, social distancing and no large gatherings.

Regan said at Ryder Supply Chain there is also an online portal and a toll-free number so drivers can order additional supplies if needed. The leadership team has a conference call twice daily just on supplies. But communication plays a critical role beyond just ordering supplies. “Captain of the ship is a term we use at Ryder. That basically says that if you feel something you are being asked to do is unsafe, don’t do it.”

Ryder and Werner are permitting drivers time off, especially those with pre-existing conditions, when requested.

“We’re letting every driver know that if they have any indication of feeling under the weather, that they are to stop what they are doing and let us know and let us assist them with getting connected with the proper authorities,” Leathers said.

He also detailed how the company is highly focused on education and awareness, using videos and written communications to emphasize information on social distancing and other practices.

“We set up a COVID-19 hotline and email address for our drivers to be able communicate directly any concerns or support they need,” Leathers said. “We have a telehealth line set up so they can access medical advice more readily without driving all over looking for a clinic or any kind of facility.”

U.S. Xpress has tackled the issue of providing critical information by creating a response section on its website that includes prevention efforts.

At Tyson Foods Inc., CEO Noel White said the company recently relaxed its attendance policy to reinforce the importance of staying home when sick or to meet child care needs. And there are other safety measures.

“We’re taking additional precautionary measures, such as daily temperature checks at all our facilities and daily cleaning with extra sanitizing in high-traffic areas.”

Tyson also is offering its workers protective face coverings for the production of beef, pork and chicken goods.

Tyson Foods ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of private carriers in North America.

Ryder Supply Chain Solutions ranks No. 11 on the TT 100 list of for-hire carriers in North America, and No. 5 on the Top 50 list of logistics companies.

Werner ranks No. 15 among for-hire carriers and No. 17 on the list of Logistics companies.

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