The current Coronavirus pandemic, the spread of COVID-19, has many businesses scrambling to understand how to protect their staff from illness and keep the doors open. When you own fleet vehicles where more than one person might be in the seats, and dozens of people might load or pack items that touch the truck or car, it’s important to sanitize your fleet vehicles to reduce the spread of the virus.
As a fleet owner, you have a lot of challenges already. You probably use a GPS tracker to make sure deliveries are made on time and maintain your vehicle engines meticulously. Now you have a new challenge: Keeping your drivers and staff safe from the novel Coronavirus.
In this blog, we’ll talk about the current understanding of how the virus is spread, the potential risks to your staff, how to sanitize your vehicles, and how you can make your own hand sanitizer.
How Coronavirus is spread
As information about Coronavirus continues to evolve, so does our understanding of the disease and how it’s transmitted.
“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
· Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
· Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
-World Health Organization (accessed March 31, 2020)
Based on the current guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), the best guidance is to assume that the novel Coronavirus can be spread on surfaces for up to three days. This is especially true of hard, nonporous surfaces, like painted surfaces and plastics. It appears that the Coronavirus is not as viable on porous surfaces, like cardboard or cloth.
Employees at Risk in Fleet Vehicles
Employees are potentially at risk in fleet vehicles in several ways.
The first, and most concerning, is person-to-person. A team riding in the cab of a truck or in a car are in much closer contact than authorities advise. The danger can be mitigated by enforcing a policy that employees stay home if they aren’t feeling well. Paid leave for ill employees has become more common in this time of uncertainty.
Other interactions, such as for loading dock staff, can be mitigated with as much social distancing as the facility will allow, enforcing the “stay at home when ill” policy, and providing hand washing and sanitizing stations everywhere.
The second potential danger is the vehicle itself. The nonporous surfaces of a truck or car might keep the virus viable for days. Vehicles should be disinfected after every shift, even if it means a delay of a few minutes leaving for the next trip. Each vehicle should be provided with hand sanitizer, and employees should be advised to be very careful as they go about their duties. If employees will have frequent contact with surfaces, they should be provided with gloves.
How to Sanitize Vehicles
The key to sanitizing the inside of vehicles, and even the cargo space of trucks, is soap and water.
It might seem strange, but plain old soap kills the Coronavirus on our hands and on surfaces. There’s a complicated chemical process that involves soap’s ability to disrupt the exterior membrane of viruses, but science has shown that, even better than alcohol-based cleansers, simple soap can kill viruses. If you’d like a complete explanation of how soap works to kill Coronavirus (and a host of other scary viruses), this New York Times article does an excellent job.
To clean your vehicle, all you need is soap and water. Put a few drops of hand, dish, or laundry soap in water and wipe down the surfaces of the car or truck. Dry it all with a clean cloth.
If you have a stash of vehicle cleaners, like Armor All wipes, you can use those. They have a little bit of detergent in them. Don’t use anything that says “detergent free”; it won’t contain the soap that kills the virus.
If your vehicle has leather, you want to look for a product that cleans and conditions. Don’t use bleach or alcohol. There are many leather cleaners on the market. You’re looking for something that contains a small amount of detergent. Because whatever you use can’t be allowed to damage the leather, look at the packaging carefully. Test it in a hidden area before using it everywhere.
Don’t use solvents, like alcohol, acetone, kerosene, or bleach. They aren’t as effective as soap, and they’re much more likely to ruin the interior parts of the vehicle.
When using soap and water, remember to wash each surface for 20 seconds, just like you do for your hands.
For the trailers or backs of trucks, you can spray the inside with soapy water, leave it for a minute or two, then rinse with hot water. Let that surface dry naturally. That will keep the cargo area clean and safe.
How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
For most drivers that must get in and out of their vehicles, washing their hands every time is difficult. You’ll need hand sanitizer in the cabs of your fleet vehicles or front seats of your cars.
The store shelves have no hand sanitizer, but fortunately, it’s something you can make for yourself easily.
You’ll need four ingredients:
· Ethanol – This is just drinking alcohol. You’ll want grain alcohol, “Everclear,” “moonshine,” “white lightning,” or whatever 90% grain alcohol is called locally. Many liquor stores sell a form of alcohol that can be used for this purpose. Isopropyl alcohol (90%) will also work, but that has been in short supply in most of the world.
· Hydrogen peroxide – 3%, which standard for household use, will be great.
· Glycerol – Known in the US as glycerin, this is a jelly-like substance that will help the alcohol stay on the skin. Pure Aloe Vera gel that is often found in the skincare area of a store, will also work.
· Water – Sterile or boiled and cooled water will be perfect.
Alcohol: 833 ml (3.5 cups)
Hydrogen Peroxide: 417 ml (1 1/3 cups)
Glycerol: 145 ml (2/3 cup)
This will make about 3.5 liters or 1 gallon.
1. Pour in alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. The glycerol/glycerin is very thick and will stick to the sides of the container. Rinse it with the water. Top off the container with the water.
2. Divide this immediately into the final containers. While pump bottles are the norm, it’s still easy to find small squeeze bottles to put the hand sanitizer into.
This can be placed in each vehicle or handed out to your staff.
Whenever they touch anything, return to the vehicles, or switch vehicles, they should sanitize their hands.
For quick cleaning, any wipes that have a small amount of detergent on them will work. You’ll find this type of disposable wipe in the car care section of a store, or even some face wipes will work well.
Keep Your Fleet Clean
Unlike any other time in history, now is the time to keep the interiors of your vehicles spotlessly clean. The world is changing, and keeping your staff healthy is more vital than ever before.
Fleet management was tough enough already. A global pandemic isn’t making it any easier, but with some attention to detail and a little soap and water, everyone can be better protected from this very virulent, silent enemy.