The Coronavirus – What Fleet Managers Need to Know

The coronavirus should not be ignored. As a fleet manager, you have a major degree of responsibility for the at-work safety of your staff and for providing safe vehicles for corporate fleet drivers. If you haven’t done so, it’s time to consider how the virus may affect your fleet operations and to take proactive actions. In this post is a brief synopsis of the issue, some of the latest information (March 7, 2020) and some suggested approaches.

As of March 7, 2020, the number of worldwide cases of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 surpassed 100,000, with nearly 3,500 deaths, as reported by the Economist.

The death toll from coronavirus in the United States rose on Saturday, March 7 to 19 people, as authorities announced two deaths in Florida, the first US deaths outside the west coast, two more in Washington state – and the governor of New York declared a state of emergency, per the Guardian.

As of March 7, 2020, 57 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Canada. In addition, the Government of Quebec reported their third case of COVID-19 and the Government of Alberta reported their second case of COVID-19. 

What is CoV?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

What are The Signs?

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Preventive Actions

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease in 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirt

What Can Fleet Managers Do?

Putting the CDC’s preventive actions into a fleet context, here are a few suggestions for proactive fleet managers to consider. While I am not a medical professional I believe these are some basic, commonsense options for fleet managers to start taking action:

  • Discuss your COVID-19 strategy with your environmental, health and safety (EHS) or workplace safety representative and senior management.
  • Most vehicles are equipped with cabin air filters – ensure they’ve been replaced recently and that routine replacement is part of your standard preventive maintenance procedures.
  • Consider purchasing a stock of personal-sized hand sanitizers for placement in each vehicle and also make them freely available in the workplace.
  • Encourage frequent hand-washing by placing signage in conspicuous places, including vehicles and the fleet workspace.
  • Place personal-sized tissue packets in all vehicles and make them available in the workplace.
  • Place waste bags in all vehicles and ensure that drivers dispose of them promptly.
  • Consider providing a supply of antiseptic wipes in each vehicle to wipe all areas of contact such as door handles (inside and outside), steering wheels, gearshifts, dash controls, etc.)
  • Encourage staff to stay home if sick, and pursue treatment.

Fleet managers require creative problem-solving skills in their personal toolkits – I recommend building on these suggestions by adding some of your own. Hopefully, you can mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in your organization, or avoid it altogether.

I invite your comments, suggestions and feedback on this post. Any recommendations you’d like to add regarding pre-emptive steps and COVID-19 will be shared with the broader fleet management community.

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