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COVID-19 Bolsters The Crucial Role of Truck Drivers

Their essential role within our society has never been more transparent

Author: Ted Cote - 25+ Year Expert in Regulated Waste and Compliance Management

“Recruiting, hiring and training qualified drivers is the most challenging part of growing our business”

- Mike Archer, SE VP Trilogy Medwaste

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of businesses closed their doors and people sheltered at home as the pandemic spread rapidly, taking lives and crippling a healthy economy. During this unprecedented time, the demand for commercial drivers across a number of industries has risen dramatically. Restaurants in particular were forced to adapt to the public’s demand for contact-less delivery and either hire delivery drivers directly or shift to contracting with popular food delivery services like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub, all of whom rely on delivery drivers to support their business model. About 40 percent of Americans say they’ve ordered restaurant takeout more often during the coronavirus pandemic than they did before, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence survey.

The trickle effect from the increased demand to hire more drivers for food and online e-commerce shoppers will ultimately result in higher prices for essential services as well as food delivery. One real-world challenge for some employers was complicated by some drivers earning more money collecting unemployment compensation and additional monies made available through the CARES Act than the money they made working. This revealed that the historical pay range for route drivers who were furloughed during the peak of the pandemic had to be adjusted upward for companies to hire new drivers or to get furloughed drivers to return to work at their current wages. Businesses accustomed to a certain pay-scale for drivers were forced to reassess wages. Besides increasing wages, some companies offer signing bonuses and other benefits to allow them to compete for drivers with successful companies like Amazon, FedEx and even brick and mortar retailers like Walmart who were now expanding product delivery options. Ultimately, the cost of higher wages will have to pass down to the consumer and commercial businesses that rely on drivers for their supply chain.

Truck drivers have been among the most vital front-line responders to the pandemic, delivering medical supplies, PPE and life-saving equipment to hospitals. Houston-based Trilogy MedWaste provides pickup, transportation and treatment of regulated medical waste, which includes picking up waste known to be generated from COVID-19 patients view their drivers as absolutely critical. “Recruiting, hiring and training qualified drivers is the most challenging part of growing our business”, said Mike Archer, the Southeast Operations VP. Trilogy, who operates across the U.S. responded quickly to the challenge by making sure their drivers safety was their highest priority. They demonstrated this by increased communication, special training, stricter protocols for the wearing of PPE and infection control throughout the entire organization. “We thank them, and thank them often.” added Archer. Besides thanking them, the company increased wages and introduced new programs to give their drivers the opportunity to earn additional monies by promoting Trilogy’s Online Product Store that sells required containers for sharps, pharma, hazardous and chemo waste.

Recruiting and retaining drivers for high-risk environments has proven to be challenging. Imagine your job is to pick up and transport infectious medical waste from a nursing home or hospital treating known COVID-19 patients and you are being paid the same as a driver delivering Thai food or pizza to people’s doorsteps. Essential service providers across the board now have to raise wages to retain drivers trained and willing to work in higher-risk environments. In addition, essential service providers now have to implement strict protocols for infection control, sanitation, regular testing for the virus, tracing, redundant back-up personnel and the costs to outfit the drivers with personal protective equipment (PPE).

This public health crisis has disrupted supply chains and caused financial hardship on many logistics and transportation companies, it also will be remembered as a time when the truck driver’s essential role within our society has never been more transparent. The crucial role of the truck driver in the response to the pandemic has not gone unnoticed. Many in the public have shown their sincere appreciation.

The truck driver’s vital role in our everyday lives has received recognition and gratitude from the public, all the way up to the Whitehouse.

The trend triggered by the pandemic for drivers becoming more essential than ever before may be here to stay as the public notices their important role in our lives. Positions that were overlooked or taken for granted are now being viewed as critical and companies that acknowledge that route drivers in many cases serve as ambassadors of their brand.

Unlike many other occupations, drivers, plant and warehouse workers do not have the option to work remotely from the comfort of their homes.

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