As the COVID-19 crisis grinds most businesses to a halt throughout the nation, a select few industries are thriving. Specifically, stay-at-home orders from governments throughout the state are forcing people to buy groceries at unprecedented rates. To keep up with the sudden demand for goods, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has exempted truckers providing COVID-19 relief from hours of service rules for the first time in over 80 years.
As truckers move across the nation to help supply a much-needed lifeline to grocery store supply chains, they’re facing an unknown risk of being exposed to COVID-19 with each stop they make. Now, truckers are wondering what they’re supposed to do if they show symptoms of the virus.
Will Truckers Be Able to Get Home If They Become Sick?
In a recent report, Business Insider reported the story of a truck driver who became ill while on a haul. Concerned that he had contracted COVID-19, the trucker emailed his employer looking for instructions for what to do. The driver claims that his employer refused to pay him for the time he needed to drive his truck back to the company yard. Instead, the company’s HR department told the man to quarantine in his truck, away from his network of friends, family, and, most importantly, healthcare.
Stories like the ones above are making truckers worried that they won’t receive the help they need after risking everything for their job. "There are many concerns being 3,000 miles from home," Driver Todd Hogan said to Business Insider. "What happens if I get sick with COVID-19? Will I ever see my family again?"
To find out if truckers would receive the care they needed after getting sick, Business Insider reached out to the top 10 trucking companies in the nation. Few of them, with the exception of two companies, responded with modified sick leave plans for drivers. The three largest companies in the for-hire industry—XPO Logistics, UPS, and FedEx—confirmed that they had expanded sick leave policies for drivers with COVID-19.
Sick Truckers Need A Way Home
After becoming sick, advising truckers to quarantine in their trucks is not advisable. In fact, one expert says that it’s a risk to public health. Trucks have no plumbing, limited facilities, and require a driver to park at truck stops for extended stays, causing possible exposure to other drivers who they’d likely share bathrooms and appliances with.
“It's better than being homeless, but better than that still is being at home,” said Charlie Yingling, interim associate dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing.
If truckers do become sick on the road, experts agree that telemedicine is their best option for healthcare. Doing so can help them confirm whether or not they have a case and can create increased pressure on their employers to respond appropriately. However, Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said that employers shouldn’t need a preliminary diagnosis to react. Instead, they should immediately send drivers home while their symptoms are mild.