Coronavirus testing poses unique challenges for truck drivers

Trucking organizations and service providers are starting to explore ways of making coronavirus tests available to drivers whose trucks are typically too large for drive-thru testing sites. But like many of the responses to COVID-19, most of the forays into driver testing have yet to coalesce around a single organized plan.

The issue “is on my radar,” Norita Taylor, a spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), told FreightWaves. Taylor said she would like to know, specifically, if truck stop clinics will have testing abilities but has yet to figure out “who to even ask.”

After FreightWaves inquired about the possibility of locating a testing site at the Jubitz Travel Center in Portland, Oregon, president and CEO Fred Jubitz said his management team was meeting “as we speak” and that coronavirus testing would be on the agenda.

The past few weeks have seen widespread concerns about lack of coronavirus testing in the U.S. Experts say tests are vital to containing the spread, but to date, only around 16,000 people have been tested.

Aiming to correct that, at least seven states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Washington — have opened drive-thru coronavirus testing stations.

Healthcare workers in protective gear take a driver’s temperature, check for breathing problems and take a sample swab that is delivered to a nearby lab.

These sites, however, are intended for passenger vehicles and don’t necessarily accommodate truck drivers and their Class 8 tractor trailers.

One solution is to leverage existing trucking infrastructure, such as the clinics OOIDA’s Taylor mentioned. Several truck stop chains, including Pilot Co. and TA-Petro, as well as some independent travel centers, offer health centers at select locations that allow truckers to see a doctor or nurse practitioner in person.

There seemed to be confusion on the part of Pilot Co. about coronavirus testing at its medical clinics. Spokesperson Bridgit Fletcher told FreightWaves that “Pilot will not be a testing site.” But Mitch Strobin, senior vice president of UrgentCareTravel, the chain that operates the Pilot clinics, said the company had ordered coronavirus test kits for its 13 facilities — 20 per site, the maximum number allowed.

A growing number of drive-thru test sites are springing up around the country, Strobin said. But truck drivers need a lot of space to maneuver, and “for the population we serve, there are limited places they can go.”

UrgentCareTravel locations have 100-plus parking places, he said, offering drivers a place to park while they get tested.

Other health care services targeting truckers have implications for the current pandemic.

GoMedRx, a telemedicine service for truckers, launched Monday as part of the Konexial family of services that serve drivers and carriers. The company started working on the product about a month ago and had planned to launch it at the Mid-America Trucking Show that was scheduled for later this month, Ken Evans, CEO of Konexial, told Frightwaves.

As the pandemic intensified — and the trucking show was canceled — Konexial decided to push up the launch date, Evans said. “We saw it as an opportunity to step up and help drivers through this crisis.”

The GoMedRx open platform provides nonemergency care for drivers and costs $180 annually.

Asked where truck drivers would get tested for coronavirus if they received a physician referral, Evans emphasized the situation is changing rapidly but said he expected doctors to direct drivers to sites being set up by Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS Health.

The retailers and pharmaceutical giants announced last week that they will dedicate a portion of their parking lots to test facilities. Whether the sites would accommodate heavy-duty trucks is unclear. Walgreens and Walmart did not immediately respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment.