The outbreak of coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on industry, not least the fleet sector, and movement ground to a halt in lockdown, with the exception of essential transport. Risks are still high and are projected to remain so for the foreseeable future.
The top priority for companies is making workplaces as safe as possible for employees but this level of care and attention should not be limited to onsite facilities.
For those whose workplace is ‘out in the field’, maintaining social distancing and high levels of cleanliness will help to limit risk and keep drivers – and their vehicles – coronavirus free.
Here is our guide on helping drivers to manage risk during the pandemic:
Getting ready for the road
Drivers should get ready for business by conducting a deep clean of their vehicle. Concentrate on the interior of the vehicle, as the exterior presents little risk.
It is recommended that you use bleach-free, germ-killing products, including antibacterial wipes and household disinfectants, and where possible, use disposable cleaning items, such as kitchen roll and gloves.
In order to ensure an effective deep clean, drivers should imagine they are cleaning the vehicle after someone who has had the virus has been in it.
Strip it back
As germs can live on surfaces for a significant amount of time, every precaution should be taken.
Firstly, protect yourself by using disposable gloves and an apron before commencing the clean.
A deep clean can only take place if everything has been removed from the vehicle. Throw away or put into storage any items that are unnecessary and only retain what is essential for the time being – the less items there are in the vehicle, the less chance there is for germs or bacteria to stick around. It will also make keeping the car clean easier during the pandemic.
For the items that you do retain, clean them thoroughly with warm soapy water and disinfect them, ready for putting back into the vehicle at the end of deep clean.
Using a disposable cloth, kitchen roll or antibacterial wipes, start to disinfect interior of the car at the driver’s side, paying particular attention to the most frequently touched areas, such as steering wheel, horn, indicators, seatbelts, ignition, rearview mirror, visor etc. Try to avoid products containing bleach, as these may damage the interior of the vehicle, and avoid using warm soapy water, as the electronics of the vehicle could be affected.
Once the frequently touched areas have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, you should move on to the rest of vehicle, starting at the front and making your way to the back.
Clean the dashboard, including the infotainment system, heating controls, air vents, and radio, and the centre console, including the gear stick and handbrake.
The front passenger seat is likely the next most used area, after the driver’s seat. Ensure that this side of the vehicle gets the same attention as the driver’s side, cleaning the dashboard, air vents, seatbelts, etc. The back of the vehicle is more straight forward but wiping down all seats, seatbelts, the back of the middle console, the vents, and the arm and head rests is still important.
Though not obvious, the doors are frequently touched areas, so pay attention to the door handles, window controls, grab handles, and door arm rests. The roof, floor and floor mats should also get a once over.
Don’t neglect the hard-to-reach places, such as under and between the seats, under the dashboard, and under the car door. Germs can easily breed here and your hard work could be in vain if you overlook them.
Remember the boot
Now that the interior of the vehicle is disinfected, time to move on to the boot. Remember, everything should have been removed from the boot prior to the clean. Clean the whole surface area of the boot, paying attention to the storage pockets and floor tab.
Remove any protective gear and dispose of the items, along with the used cloths, wipes or kitchen roll, in a bin liner. Ideally, you should double bag these items and then store securely for 72 hours before fully throwing them away.
Remove all clothing and put them in the wash at a high temperature setting to kill any lingering germs.
After this is done, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
With so much to cover, it can be easy to miss a spot.
Now that the vehicle is clean, it is important that you keep up this routine. It is recommended that you complete the above deep clean at least once a week, perhaps on the weekend, whilst also maintaining a high standard of cleanliness throughout the working week.
It is also important to stay vigilant when out on the road. Here are some top tips for keeping your distance and minimising risk whilst out on the job:
Keeping safe on the road
- Avoid vehicle sharing or multioccupancy vehicles, where possible.
- If it is not possible to keep a 2m distance in a vehicle, consider additional safety measures, such as:
- physical screening, provided this does not compromise safety or reduce visibility
- increased ventilation
- fixed teams, to minimise contact with multiple workers
- clean the vehicle after every journey
- Carry out contactless payments for refuelling and use electronic paperwork, where possible.
- Plan ahead for comfort breaks.
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, particularly before boarding the vehicle.
- Face masks are optional. When wearing a face covering:
- avoid touching your face or face covering, to prevent contamination
- change and wash your face covering daily and, if it gets damp
- Frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including:
- door handles
- steering wheel
- fuel pumps and fuel flap
- handbrake and gear stick
- vehicle keys
- Swiftly and safely dispose of the wipes or cloth used for cleaning.
- Remove waste and belongings from the vehicle at the end of a shift.
- Carry sufficient amounts of hand sanitiser and use after contact with people and frequently touched surfaces and objects, if soap and water is not available. Do not leave hand sanitiser in cars during hot weather. Hand sanitizer can ignite inside a vehicle sitting in direct sunlight, which could severely damage your vehicle. Additionally, leaving sanitising products in hot environments for a prolonged period of time can reduce their alcohol content and make them less effective.
- Stay in the vehicle as much as practicable during the shift.
Remember, these are not exhaustive lists but are designed to offer some helpful advice as fleets ready themselves for getting back on the road.
Drivers should keep up-to-date and follow guidelines from issued by the government and their employer on staying safe during the pandemic.