The overwhelming aspect of COVID-19 that has impacted every business except completely virtual brands is minimizing face-to-face contact.
This has led brands like Uber Eats and Instagram to initiate contactless delivery. The worker leaves the delivery at the customer's front door, waits in the vehicle for the customer to recover the goods and respond via technology, and then the worker leaves. We didn't imagine this new reality, but it is here nonetheless.
In the world of fleet management, the challenges are many as workers struggle to adapt.
Here are some issues we've identified:
- The need to perform a physical inspection of a commercial vehicle before completing it, which is required by federal law
- The need for drivers to take vehicles for maintenance and repairs (which are obtained from third-party providers with restricted operations)
- Potential germ spread between workers riding in the same vehicle
- The need to sanitize vehicles
- The need for contactless transactions (obtaining signatures or payments for deliveries)
- The need for interactions between warehouse personnel and drivers
- Potential exposure to germs from goods packaged in warehouses and distribution centers
- Potential exposure while drivers move through transportation-related checkpoints, such as weigh stations and toll facilities
- Germ risks when getting gas and other supplies
- Lack of protective gear for many delivery drivers
- Finding lodging for long-distance truck drivers
- Potential for harassment or abuse by customers who won't follow social distancing guidelines
We could keep listing these potential risks to fleet employees who operate commercial vehicles on local, regional, and national routes.
Each risk involves moving goods from point-to-point or providing services to customers within a certain area. Everywhere there is the potential for germ spread, either through materials handling or face-to-face conversation, which places fleet personnel at risk.
Managing the Effects of COVID-19 Risks
Fleet employees have faced great risks throughout the pandemic. On the front lines, they keep the supply chain going, empowering the country to procure goods and services. Without fleet employees, the country might completely shut down.
Furthermore, the population depends upon deliveries more than ever before. As a result, much stress and anxiety are affecting fleet workers. They are at risk when reporting to work and performing their duties. They could become even more concerned about their safety once communities relax social distancing guidelines.
A Case in Point
Consider once people stop sheltering in place (except the most vulnerable individuals), it's likely many will stop practicing social distancing in public. During Phase I recommendations provided by the White House, people should maintain a distance and not gather in groups of 10 or more.
However, they might disregard their behaviors, which will place essential workers more at risk. In this sense, fleet workers might wish those shelter-in-place guidelines would last longer. In addition, each state will coordinate its return to business as usual. Drivers who work in multiple states will face different conditions in every state.
The easiest way to alleviate problems arising from human contact and sharing of materials is to maintain a real-time fleet management system. At a minimum, your company needs a way to communicate with every driver in real-time.
This system helps management address concerns and warn drivers of conditions that impact them each day. You also need a plan for sharing your company's revised business practices with all stakeholders.
Good communication will reduce the effects of COVID-19 risks on drivers because everyone will know what to expect. That being said, keep sharing all this information over time, so your drivers are fully protected.
Finally, drivers need time off and access to health and counseling resources as they carry the burden of the nation on their shoulders.