First and foremost, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact how we perform work duties, fleets must implement proper sanitation policies.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our people, our clients, our partners and of course, drivers,” said Steven Jastrow, VP of strategic consulting and analytics for Element Fleet Management. “One of the most important things we’re all hearing is the importance of keeping clean to stopping the spread of the virus — so we immediately looked to share best practices in that regard with drivers.”
Widespread implementation of hygienic best practices for fleet professionals and their drivers is an elemental step, not only for the safety of their drivers and entire company, but the general public. Also important is recognizing shelter-in-place mandates, wherever they are being applied, and “social distancing.”
“In terms of prevention and safety tips for fleet personnel, it goes without saying everyone should adhere to the guidelines published by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Bob White, president of ARI. “Additionally, fleet personnel should also obey any restrictions or guidelines - such as shelter in place mandates and social distancing recommendations - currently in place for the region in which they operate. Beyond that, we’re strongly encouraging drivers to take additional precautions to further limit the spread of the COVID-19.”
Other fleet management professionals elaborated on the necessity of maintaining stringent sanitation policies, exploring the details of this of what is necessary.
“Sanitize frequently touched surfaces within the vehicles on a regular basis. Wear gloves when possible outside of your vehicle, especially when fueling the vehicle. Pumps, keypads and other surfaces are frequently touched and have not been sanitized. Wherever possible use contactless payment methods to avoid touching keypads or pens to sign,” said Carolyn Edwards, SVP of Client Success, LeasePlan USA.
Tom Coffey, senior VP of sales & consulting, Merchants Fleet, expanded on practicing smart sanitation practices and other important aspects of addressing COVID-19.
“When drivers get home or finish their shift, they should thoroughly wipe down their vehicles with disinfectant wipes, change their clothes, and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” said Coffey of Merchants Fleet. “If they are on the road and don’t have access to soap and water during their shift, they should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If they are turning in vehicles and picking up new ones, wiping down and cleaning out vehicles isn’t just a courtesy – it’s a health measure.”
With regards to cleaning solutions, White of ARI suggested being mindful of what is being used on assets and where they are being applied, so as to not accidentally damage any part of the vehicle.
“It is important to keep in mind, bleach or alcohol-based cleaners should not be used on leather surfaces and avoid getting water or other liquids near electronics,” he added.
These ideas of sanitation lend themselves to a much broader idea echoed by many fleet management company professionals: being proactive as much as possible.
“One best practice we recommend to clients during any time of crisis is to develop a clear action plan: think proactively, know what you are going to do, and act proactively,” said Coffey of Merchants Fleet. “It is also important to keep channels of communication open with drivers. In situations like these, there is no such thing as over-communication. And communications should be transparent – know what you know, know what you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know.’”
One way to be proactive is to consider the needs of your assets. While health and safety for personnel is a top priority, fleets still cannot neglect vehicle needs.
“In terms of best practices, now may be a good time to undertake a tool and equipment audit on trucks; the benefit is lighter loads and improved fuel economy when drivers go back to work,” said Jastrow of Element Fleet Management. “It’s also a good time to do visual inspections for safety issues - check lights and plates, etc. and address any deferred maintenance and PM compliance on idled vehicles. In terms of safety, we suggest that when possible, a vehicle be left to sit for 72 hours if picking up or changing drivers, given that the estimated lifespan of the virus is 72 hours on surfaces.”