A Maryland State Trooper directs a truck to be inspected in West Friendship, Md., during a road check event. CVSA recommends inspectors keep their distance from drivers during the coronavirus outbreak. (CVSA)
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From decontamination of their uniforms daily to keeping their distance from truck cabs and drivers, roadside inspectors face increasingly challenging conditions in keeping the nation’s highways safe in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
During a more than 90-minute webinar, “The Inspector’s Guide to Infectious Substances and COVID-19,” on March 23, inspectors heard a variety of suggestions from Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance experts on how to stay safe when inspecting commercial vehicles while at the same time complying with their regulatory obligations.
As with people throughout the nation, the job environment for inspectors is in flux, said Bill Reese, director of cooperative hazardous materials enforcement development for CVSA.
“What we’re trying to do is not overwhelm the health care system,” said Reese, who spent 30 years as an officer with the Idaho State Police, much of that time in hazardous materials enforcement. “We want to flatten out the curve so we don’t have everybody getting the virus at one time, so our health care system can handle it.”
Like the rest of America, inspectors are being told to stay at least six feet away from others and frequently wash their hands — and since they work outdoors, to avoid being downwind when speaking with drivers.
“The bottom line is clean, clean, clean,” Reese said. “We can still communicate with people, we just can’t be up close and personal.”
Inspectors also were told to wear approved face masks and disposable gloves, as well as personal protective suits and safety glasses in those in jurisdictions that have them available.
When it comes to regulatory authority for the transport of infectious substances and medical coronavirus waste, what inspectors can check at roadside is “pretty limited,” said webinar presenter James Boehringer, president of J.E.B. Environmental Services of Yukon, Okla.
The federal government is requiring that medical or infectious substances be labeled as Biological Substances, Category B, Boehringer said. Inspectors cannot open such shipments, but are required to see that they are labeled correctly, he said.
Although truck drivers carrying shipments related to the virus are generally exempt from hours-of-service requirements, inspectors may have some discretion over loads carrying coronavirus-related goods and other nonrelated coronavirus goods.
“The bottom line is the driver does not have to carry anything that says it’s one of those coronavirus loads,” Boehringer said. “Say the majority of a semi-trailer is loaded with grocery items and toilet paper, and you have a couple palates of something else on the back. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is not concerned about those couple of palates.”
Boehringer added, “What they are concerned with though is somebody that has a load of building materials not critical to anything and they throw a case of water in the back. That kind of stuff just doesn’t cut it. Really it’s going to come down to a judgment call.”
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