By Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations, PrePass Safety Alliance

Yesterday your trucks were hauling toilet paper to a grocery distribution center. Today your drivers are heading to a distillery that has begun making hand sanitizer. Both of those shippers are new – usually your fleet handles auto parts. Tomorrow?

These are uncertain times. And while uncertainty and change can challenge your company’s business model, they also require an enhanced focus on safety. After all, your drivers are facing new routes, new destinations, new working conditions and a novel threat to their health – any one of which can lead to errors and distraction. Especially today, when your operations may be directly tied to the delivery of essential goods and medical supplies in the pandemic, the safe arrival of your trucks and drivers is necessary for the safety of the public itself.

Fortunately, there are lessons from history. No, our country has not experienced COVID-19 before. But we have lived through many natural disasters – floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards – that have cut off supply chains and required restoration through the heroic services of truck fleets and utility companies. Through my time with the California Highway Patrol, I witnessed the aftermaths of the Northridge and Loma Prieta Earthquakes, not to mention the recent Camp Wildfire which destroyed the Town of Paradise. Here are some lessons learned:

Safety is knowing the route.  COVID-19 may not be closing down highways, as did earthquakes and forest fires. But the fleets and professional drivers who responded following those natural disasters learned in advance exact directions, estimated transit times, and where trucks could safely park should conditions change. Safety means eliminating guesswork on the road.

Safety is knowing conditions at destination.  Utility companies often operated the first commercial motor vehicles entering a disaster area. They worked closely with the CHP on the location and conditions of the staging area. Fleets serving new pandemic customers may discover shippers who are reconfiguring their facility traffic flow and driver directions to meet today’s needs. That is equally true at receiver facilities. Safety means providing drivers with a complete picture of what to expect at each end of their journey.

Safety is cooperating with authorities.  Utility companies heading to a disaster scene might be waived through weigh stations but they knew that the CHP would inspect their equipment at the staging area. Safety itself was never waived. Fleets today should know that truck inspections continue at weigh stations – but now inspectors are practicing social distancing between themselves and drivers. Safety means cooperating with authorities to protect each other’s health.

Safety is personal.  The Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes resulted in an estimated 10,757 injuries and 122 deaths. The Camp Wildfire killed 86 people. Each one had a personal story. That is why during COVID-19 many shippers/receivers and some local and state governments are requiring personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, for workers out in the public. Safety means protecting one’s own.

Safety also means recognition long overdue. Trucking companies and professional drivers are finally being recognized for their critical role in our society, and along with doctors, nurses, medical personnel, first responders and providers of essential services, true heroes during this pandemic. Thank you for serving us well, and safely!

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations for PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of the truck weigh station bypass system PrePass, as well as toll payment and trucking data visualization technology. He previously served with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

This blog was originally published on the IdeaXchange