March 17, 2020 9:15 AM, EDT

New York Officials, Trucking Association Take Caution Amid COVID-19

George Washington Bridge NYTraffic heading into New York City on the George Washington Bridge. (Getty Images)

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In an effort to limit crowds during the coronavirus outbreak, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have teamed up to institute restrictions on social gathering places.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced March 16 that bars and restaurants would close for on-premise service and move to takeout and delivery only. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf joined the coalition March 18. The governors also are temporarily closing movie theaters, gyms and casinos. The standards limit social gatherings to 50 people, which mirrors recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is not a war that can be won alone, which is why New York is partnering with our neighboring states to implement a uniform standard that not only keeps our people safe but also prevents ‘state shopping,’ where residents of one state travel to another and vice versa,” Cuomo said in a statement.

According to CDC, some 2,601 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New York as of March 19, with 267 cases in New Jersey, 68 in Connecticut and 96 in Pennsylvania.

Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems said still it is too early to tell what the restrictions’ impacts on the industry will be.

“Our role right now is just to try and keep as much information and communication going with our members as possible to make sure they’re informed of the various exemptions that are being put in place as a result of both the state and national declarations, as well as just ensuring they’re also familiar with TANY decisions that are being made related to closures,” Hems told Transport Topics.

Due to public health concerns, the association canceled its Truck Safety and Education Symposium, which was scheduled for April 7-8.

Hems said there has been a spike in e-commerce, either because people don’t want to interact with others or because they can’t get what they need in stores.

Also, she said that some members are extremely busy while others are experiencing a slowdown. For example, a fuel hauler called her recently to offer trucks and drivers to help out other companies because the hauler had trucks that were sitting. Hems pointed out that people aren’t driving too much because many places are shut down, meaning there isn’t as much of a need to refill at fuel stations.

Hems said her members are taking precautions to keep their drivers safe. One member, which delivers oil fuel in New York City, is equipping drivers with rubber gloves and extra pens. If a driver has to hand a customer a pen to sign a document, he or she doesn’t have to take that pen back.

“[I] haven’t heard of anyone having concerns about going in,” Hems said. “It’s been more about the precautions that the companies are taking to keep the drivers safe.”

One silver lining Hems identified is the way the coronavirus has magnified the importance of trucking. She said policymakers have recognized the value of the industry during the outbreak and have included freight haulers in their considerations.

“It really is bringing to light how critical the industry is in times of need,” Hems said. “They have been more than willing to work with us because they understand how important it is that these drivers are on the road and are restocking shelves with these critical supplies.”

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