Truck trading groups and a group of fleets and drivers are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow truck stops and travel spots to offer vaccinations to drivers in transit.
However, some drivers don’t think this is a good idea.
“I don’t think they’re sterile enough for that,” said 35-year-old veteran driver Carla Dickey. “I’m not thrilled with this deal.”
But Dickey, a long-haul driver of products and eggs for Bulkley Trucking Inc. based in Bashear, Texas, understands the mood.
“When this pandemic started, we were America’s heroes,” she said. “Now when it’s time to fire the shots, we were kicked to the side of the road as always.”
Letter to the CDC
NATSO, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Truckload Carriers Association, the National Private Truck Council, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, and the Tank Truck Carriers co-signed a letter to CDC director Rochelle Walensky.
“The nature of the truck, truck stop and travel plaza industries offers the opportunity to have an immediate and significant impact on the distribution of vaccines to key truck stop workers and truck drivers,” the letter said.
Distributing COVID vaccines at truck stops and travel sites would facilitate vaccination for “the special needs of truck drivers who spend hundreds of days away from home each year,” said Lisa Mullings, President and CEO of NATSO.
Dickey, 63, has not yet received a vaccine. “In the town I live in, they make older people,” she told FreightWaves.
Aside from stopping for fuel and showering, Dickey is avoiding truck stops because the initial zeal for cleanliness at the start of the pandemic has waned in recent months.
“I’ve been to disgusting rest stops,” she said. “They only care about wearing masks”.
Texas this week lifted a state requirement for wearing masks. Dickey said she would still wear one in crowded areas.
“The pandemic is far from over,” she said.
Owner and operator Stephen Halsted said he disagreed with the vaccine being given to rest stops because he believed the vaccine was “experimental”.
“We don’t know enough about it,” he said. “It’s like the flu shot.”
Halstead and his driving partner Sandy Goche are not planning a vaccination. Coincidentally, the duo are accelerating a load of vaccine containers into the Kansas City, Missouri area next week.
Consideration of residence requirements
“Commercial drivers who do not have access to medical services in their home state or while driving an articulated truck are already used to accessing these services at truck stops and travel centers,” said Mullings.
Many states require proof of residence to get a vaccine. First and second shots should be allowed in different locations as a driver is unlikely to be near the site of their first injection on any given date or time, which makes NATSO sad.
“We cannot expect drivers – some of whom are actively transporting the vaccine – to return to their homes to receive the vaccine,” said Dan Horvath, ATA vice president of security policy. Removing the red tape will help make the vaccine available to those who wish to receive it. “