As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the U.S. and many Americans work from home, it’s “business as usual” for many of the nation’s truck drivers, who work long hours to make sure medical supplies, food, fuel and other essentials arrive safely at their destinations.
With most restaurants closing their dining rooms and going to drive-though and take-out only service, some gas stations closing public restrooms and other amenities, and truck-parking at a premium, these hardworking men and women are facing new challenges in their paths.
One question we at The Trucker have heard from several OTR drivers is, “What happens to me if I get sick out here on the road? What if I get COVID-19? Where can I go?”
Thanks to a collaborative effort between UrgentCare Travel clinics and TruckPark Inc., drivers now have resources for gaining access to COVID-19 telehealth and testing resources, as well as safe parking that’s as convenient as possible to medical providers.
Bob Stanton, an Illinois OTR driver and co-founder of Truckers for a Cause, was the driving force in bringing the two companies together to provide services for drivers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“The COVID-19 crisis sparked me to do something. I am at an extremely high risk for a bad outcome if I get this, and last week I started thinking, ‘If I get COVID on the road, what the heck do I do?’” he said. “One of the questions for today is, if you do have to self-quarantine, where can you? Rumors are that truck stops may not let you self-quarantine in their parking lots due to concerns for the truck-stop staff.”
Stanton also has a word of advice for drivers who have four-legged co-pilots: Now might be a good time to give your pet a “vacation” at home.
“Right now, just getting medical care for yourself is enough of a problem. If you get sick, who is going to take care of your pet?” he said.
The result of Stanton’s pondering was a series of phone calls from Stanton to UrgentCare Travel, TruckPark and other organizations that resulted in a cooperative effort to provide a network of resources for truck drivers.
Truckers experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — including fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — can easily access UrgentCare’s telehealth evaluation services using the VSee Messenger app (available for Apple, Android and Windows products); click here for instructions to download the app and connect to an UrgentCare provider. There is a $40 fee, payable by credit or debit card, for using UrgentCare’s telehealth service; if testing or treatment is required, the fee will be applied to the patient’s total bill.
Drivers experiencing some of the more severe symptoms noted by the CDC — including trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face — should seek medical attention immediately.
“This telehealth service is a safe way for a driver to get an initial evaluation (of COVID-19 symptoms) from their truck versus having people congregate at the clinic,” said Mitch Strobin, senior vice president of marketing and relationship management for UrgentCare Travel.
“Many drivers on the road today suffer from a chronic condition, like diabetes or hypertension, that puts them more at risk for the coronavirus,” he continued.
UrgentCare operates a network of freestanding medical clinics at Pilot and Flying J travel centers across the nation. The walk-in clinics provide a variety of services, including primary care, chronic care management, DOT physicals and more.
“We’re seeing that hospitals, medical facilities and offices are closing to those day-to-day medical services,” Strobin said. “We are open and we are committed to drivers, because they have daily needs on the road and don’t have many options (for easily accessible medical care).”
If a clinic visit for testing or other medical care is necessary, drivers can find the nearest parking facilities by visiting TruckPark’s interactive location-finder map. The map pinpoints UrgentCare facilities and truck-parking locations; there is also a link to DOT Mentor’s DOT Examiner Directory, which includes a listing of additional health-care providers.
Secure overnight parking is always important for drivers, but it’s critical for drivers who have been tested for COVID-19 and must self-quarantine until test results are available, said Anthony Petitte, CEO and founder of TruckPark Inc.
“We are thankful for truck drivers all over and what they’re doing right now while we’re staying at home in our living rooms. They’re out there moving products safely,” Petitte said.
In addition to partnering with UrgentCare travel and DOT Mentor, Petitte said he and the TruckPark team would like to offer additional assistance for drivers by helping to provide safe parking locations, whether drivers are simply taking a rest break or are under quarantine. To this end, TruckPark has reduced parking rates by 25% for drivers.
Individuals and businesses looking for a way to help truck drivers can reserve parking, either for a specific driver or any driver, still at a 25% discount, Petitte added. To reserve a spot for a trucker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-872-205-6024.
“We will make a reservation for the driver, and the driver won’t have to pay anything for parking because of the generosity of another person,” Petitte said.
“It’s a way to show appreciation for truckers with everything that’s going on right now. We call it ‘old-school trucking,’ when people come together and help each other out,” he continued. “Sometimes with technology, the drivers become just another number — but they’re not just another number; they’re people. And they’re people with big hearts, and we want to help them make a difference.”