Keep calm and wash your hands

How truckers can protect themselves while delivering freight during the coronavirus pandemic.

May 2020

Wendy Parker


First things first.

Thank you. Your dedication and determination to keep the hospitals supplied and grocery shelves full is truly the fabric of our existence during uncertain times. We appreciate you. We see you, and we want you to stay healthy.

As simple as it sounds, one of the best prevention methods for the spread of any coronavirus is washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. Warm water and soap go a long way toward keeping you and your family healthy.

Wait? Did you just say ‘any’ coronavirus? Is there more than one?

Quick biology lesson. Consider it a battle plan to improve your attack on the clear and present danger.

“Coronaviruses” are a large family of viruses that can infect humans or animals and refer to the spiky shape of the virus itself. A “novel coronavirus” refers to a new strain that has not been previously found in people, and that’s what COVID-19 has been identified as.

This large family of viruses can cause respiratory, intestinal, liver, and neurological diseases in different animal species. To date, seven specific viruses in this family have been identified as capable of infecting humans.

These viruses can be effectively inactivated by lipid (fat) solvents. Like others in the family, COVID-19 appears to be sensitive to ultraviolet rays and heat.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family from infection?

Washing your hands in warm water with soap is the easiest and one of the most effective barriers between you, your family and any virus or bacteria. Warm water assists the surfactants in soap, which makes the foam, with breaking down the lipid coating that COVID-19 relies upon for transmission to healthy cells.

Frequent, vigorous, 20-second soap-and-water hand scrubs are a huge part of staying healthy.

Avoid touching your face, even if your hands are clean. Smokers should be aware of contamination possibilities from touching a cigarette. Also be advised that smokers have a higher risk for any respiratory infection.

Keep your steering wheel, shifter, phone screen and keyboards clean with disinfectant wipes. Remember that work gloves might be a breeding ground for infection. Wash or replace them frequently. Wipe down all the surfaces in your truck with antibacterial wipes at least once a day.

Consider having a dedicated pair of truck shoes that never leave the cab. Bag your outside shoes and keep them in the side box.

Obviously, getting good rest, eating well and staying hydrated also are key in staying healthy. “Keep calm” isn’t just a catch-phrase. It is solid good medical advice. Studies have shown that worry, stress and anxiety cause the body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that weakens immune response.

What if I can’t get disinfectant wipes?

Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 60% will break down lipids. Just for reference, the strongest vodka is 40% alcohol – it will not suffice.

Any mix with one part bleach and five parts water directly dissolves protein. It will also take the color out of material and is not suggested for confined, closed spaces like a truck cab. Be sure to open the doors and windows until surfaces are completely dry. Never clean with bleach in a closed truck.

If nothing else is available, good old blue Dawn dishwashing liquid has a lipid-busting surfactant that, along with a little hot water, scrubbing and elbow grease, will clean the surfaces you need to feel reasonably comfortable in touching frequently, like your steering wheel.

Why aren’t truck drivers being provided with masks and gloves?

This question has come up more than once, and the bottom line is there simply haven’t been enough disposable masks to provide them for every possible person at risk. The fact is, priorities dictate that health care providers be No. 1, and until we have a stockpile available for them there won’t be a lot of leeway for ancillary-risk professions to have a whole lot of available PPE beyond absolute necessity. LL