How COVID Dining Options May Cause Pandemic Truck Driver Safety Issues
Since March, more than 100,000 restaurants have closed across the United States due to the pandemic. This drastic drop in available restaurants may have a surprisingly harmful effect on the trucking industry. Drivers need to be prepared for the potential of more distracted or ill truckers as a result of this pandemic truck driver safety issue.
How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Food Industry
The food industry has been one of the areas hit the hardest by COVID-19. Most restaurants tend to operate with a model where they are only profitable if they have a high number of customers. Expenses such as rent in trendy areas remain high even if a restaurant is not able to operate. Therefore, shutdowns and laws reducing restaurant capacity have made it hard for many restaurants to stay afloat.
Even when restaurants are not affected by all the COVID restaurant closures, it can be harder for customers on the go to find places to eat. Many restaurants have switched to delivery-only models that keep drivers from stopping by a restaurant to grab a warm meal. Other restaurants are only able to operate for a limited number of hours or serve a certain number of patrons at a time. This can make it tricky for people on a tight schedule to get food. A lot of convenient trucker standbys, like gas station hot dogs and taquitos, are no longer being offered due to hygiene concerns.
Truckers Report That It Is Harder to Find Good Meal Options
When asked about how the pandemic is affecting their job, one of the main issues many truckers bring up is the lack of good food options. Typically, truckers rely on restaurants and gas stations to provide food along their route. However, during COVID, drivers on a trip may go through multiple towns without a single restaurant open. Many restaurants favored by truckers are no longer able to operate at the hours needed to service truckers. Often, truckers cannot fit their rigs in the carry-out restaurants that are often the only place still open. When they do find an open restaurant with rig space, it may already be filled to capacity by other truckers, and those on a tight schedule cannot sit around waiting for a free table. Another issue is that companies that used to let delivery drivers have a meal in their breakroom are now banning outside employees in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 spread.
All these challenges have left truck drivers scrambling to find food alternatives. Kevin Callahan, a trucker from Cocoa Beach, explains, “Your options are fairly small. Drivers are picking clear the small amount of food in truck stops.” Truckers have responded to the limited food options by trying to plan ahead. Some report that they are trying to fit refrigerators and microwaves into their sleeper cabs, so they can reheat frozen foods on the go. Others with less room for appliances are stuck trying to load up on granola bars, cans of soup, packs of chips, and other processed foods. Depending on where they shop, these shelf-stable, no-cook foods are often sold out due to shoppers panic-buying. Instead of getting healthy, filling meals, many truckers are left subsisting on nothing but junk food.
Truck Drivers Risk Catching COVID While Finding Food
One of the main dangers of the COVID food shortage among truckers is that it puts them at more of a risk of getting sick. Truck drivers have limited food options, so they may have no choice besides sitting in a crowded restaurant or eating food prepared by an ill line cook. The unfortunate reality is that their job and dietary needs make truck drivers more likely to catch the coronavirus. Even if they take precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitizing their hands, they are simply forced into more opportunities where they may be exposed to the virus.
If a truck driver does catch the virus while trying to get a meal, they may struggle to find support. There has been some concern that certain shipping companies are failing to provide time off or medical care for their truckers who end up getting COVID-19 on the job. This can lead to unpleasant situations where an ill trucker keeps working even though they are too sick to drive safely. A trucker may try to push through fatigue and coughing to get to a place where they can rest, but their illness puts them and fellow drivers at risk. In these sorts of circumstances, trucking accident lawyers report that the company itself could be liable for any accidents a trucker ends up getting involved in.
Hungry Drivers May Become Distracted Drivers
Another way that the restaurant shortage may affect truck drivers is by making it harder to focus while on the job. If you have ever skipped a meal or two, then you know just how foggy and confused it may make you feel. A trucker who has not had a meal in hours may struggle to focus on the road and make safe decisions. When a truck driver has not seen an open restaurant for miles, it is understandable that they might swerve across a few lanes of traffic when they finally find a restaurant still operating during COVID. Unfortunately, these sorts of poor decisions can lead to accidents with others on the road.
In cases where a truck driver is stuck with only junk food as their option, their driving may suffer even if they do not feel like they are starving. Research done in 2009 by Oxford University found that a diet of junk food made it hard for test subjects to make smart decisions. Those who eat nothing but junk food may find it difficult to pay attention to the road, remember to perform equipment safety checks, or accurately judge speeds and passing distances. Truckers stuck snacking all day will find it hard to get the nutrition they need to perform an intense, physically demanding job. This can end up having a disastrous effect on other drivers. When an 80,000-pound truck makes even a little mistake, it can end up completely destroying smaller vehicles.
Get Representation for Your Trucking Accident and Pandemic Truck Driver Safety Concerns
If you or someone you know has been involved in a COVID trucking accident, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. The sad reality is that negligence does not go away just because most truckers are heroically working their hardest to transport supplies during the pandemic. In cases where negligence led to an accident, you may deserve compensation for your injuries and damaged property. A trucking accident lawyer can help you collect evidence and learn about relevant legal precedence for your case.
RAM Law is here to help with all sorts of trucking accidents. Our team of New Jersey lawyers can examine your case and help you decide on your next step. We provide our clients with dedicated representation. During COVID, our New Brunswick and Somerville teams are still working hard, providing remote appointments to keep our customers safe. To schedule a free consultation with us now, call (732) 394-1549 or fill out our online contact form.