Businesses and community leaders have had to adapt the best they can during the COVID-19 crisis. Here is one story – of JA Frate in Crystal Lake, Illinois – that is facing safety risks while trying to remain committed to their critically important job. Story told by JA Frate President, Jill Dinsmore.
“Everyone who can work from home is working from home. Except my drivers, they’re on the front lines of this. They are the ones I worry about.
“Our drivers are the ones that are at risk the most, and the most nervous. The looks on their faces are looks of fear. They won’t say it out loud but you can see how worried they are. They are worried about being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to a loved one.
“Most of our drivers have 10 to 20 stops a day that they deliver freight to. Different customers in different places are not allowing them on their premises and are already treating them as if they are infected. They have to sign a document certifying that they don’t have a fever or a cough, or they haven’t been exposed. As a business owner, I understand they are trying to protect their team.
“The conditions that we have been finding most challenging were down at the cargo terminals by O’Hare. After 9/11 so many TSA regulations were changed so you had to have a separation between known cargo and unknown cargo, and anyone who was not an employee of the cargo facility or TSA certified had to be kept separate from the cargo. The way many of these companies did that was to put up chain link fenced areas. The drivers have to wait in the fenced area for their cargo to be loaded or dropped off. The chain-linked areas are not very big, usually 4 by 4ft. or 6 by 6ft, and many times there are 10 drivers checking in and waiting to be told that their freight is ready. In the past, it was not a big deal. Now that we have social distancing going on, you have quite a few people in a very small space.
“The biggest problem we have been facing is that the TSA regulations were conflicting with the new social distancing norms.
“In response to our driver’s concerns, we have equipped them with N95 masks and hand sanitizer. And I started making calls. Specifically, to every one of the business owners that I know at the airport cargo facilities to try to get them to change their practice.
“A lot of things have happened in this last week. It’s a very fluid changing situation we have never dealt with this before. Our drivers are feeling that we are keeping them as safe as we can. They have talked to other drivers at other carriers who are very frustrated, very upset, they’re not feeling like their companies are taking care of them. I feel good that we are staying in communication, our guys know what’s going on and we are providing the tools they need to stay safe.”