Tips from Clean Harbors: Sanitizing Vehicles During COVID-19

April 16, 2020

Clean Harbors is the leading decontamination provider in the country. Founded in 1980, they previously helped curtail the spread of avian flu and swine flu, and they were called on to decontaminate ground zero following 9/11. Currently, Clean Harbors is on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19—dispatching thousands of trained experts to help more than 1,300 businesses in the United States and Canada decontaminate airlines, cruise ships, trains, fleets, sports stadiums, schools, universities, hotels, government buildings, food and beverage wholesalers, stores, and myriad other facilities.

Recently, Clean Harbors adopted Samsara's fleet management solution across their fleet. With the 19th largest private fleet in the United States, they depend on Samsara for reliable, real-time GPS to keep their employees compliant and safe (read more about our partnership below). We reached out to see if their team of decontamination experts could offer any best practices on vehicle sanitization—a topic that is particularly important for our fleet customers who are supporting essential services at this time and still have drivers on the road.

While Clean Harbors typically specializes in large scale decontamination projects, their Senior Vice President of Field Services and head of COVID-19 decontamination efforts, Chuck Geer, said there’s plenty a truck driver can do to protect themselves while on the road. Here are his five “Ws”—vehicle sanitization tips for truck drivers to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic—in his own words.

5 ‘Ws’ for drivers from Chuck Geer

Chuck Geer, Senior Vice President of Field Services and head of COVID-19 decontamination efforts at Clean Harbors

1. Wipe down ‘high touch points’ in your cab

Choose wipes or disinfecting spray that are at least 70% alcohol or chlorine. Wipe down your truck each morning before you hit the road. Hitting the steering wheel, console, and gear shift are obvious, but that’s not enough. You want to be sure to disinfect what we call “high touch points”–simply enough, any spot that you touch a lot. That includes things like your door handles, seatbelt, buckle, seat, radio knob, air conditioner, horn, wiper switch, and any typical controls. In your mind, go through how you normally drive and take note of all the things you normally touch. If you touch it, it needs to be wiped down. 

That may sound time consuming, but if you follow the next steps on this list, you really only need to do it once at the start of each day. 

2. Wait for the disinfectant to do its job

Make sure you wait a few minutes after your thorough wipe-down before you take the wheel and start touching things again. This is what we call “contact time.” Be patient and let the alcohol or chlorine do its work. If you touch the surfaces before the disinfectant dries, all that wiping you just did was for nothing. 

3. Wash your hands before reentering your cab

No, seriously, wash your hands. You’ve undoubtedly heard this a million times over the past month or so, but washing your hands is the most important thing we can do to stem the spread of coronavirus. You may think, “Yeah, I know to wash my hands,” but so few people know how to wash their hands correctly. You must wash your hands with warm or cool water and soap vigorously for 20 seconds. Most importantly, scrub your palms–hard. Be sure each part of your hand receives friction, including between your fingers, fingertips, underneath fingernails, and thumbs. 

If you’re tired of “Happy Birthday” running through your head twice to determine when those 20 seconds are over, switch it up and sing the chorus of “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club or “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Or, you could hum the Empire theme song from Star Wars if you’re feeling particularly ominous. 

Washing your hands just after using the restroom is not enough. You need to wash your hands after getting gas, picking up lunch, or making a drop-off. Basically, any time you leave the cab, you need to wash your hands before coming back in. Sometimes you’ll need to wash your hands multiple times in that span. At a truck stop to fill up, use the restroom, and grab something to eat? Wash your hands after touching the fuel pump, after touching a door handle, after using the restroom, and before and after eating. Any time you touch any surface that could be contaminated, you need to wash your hands afterward. 

4. Wear gloves and a mask when outside your vehicle

If all that handwashing while outside your truck sounds like too much, wear gloves. Disposable gloves are best, but any gloves can work—cleaning gloves, driving gloves, work gloves, rubber gloves, ski gloves, or mittens will all do. You just need something that covers your skin while touching foreign surfaces. Put your gloves on immediately after exiting the cab and take them off again before getting back in and touching anything. If you are wearing disposable gloves, throw them away before re-entering your cab. 

So, your hands are clean and your mind is sharp. What about your nose and mouth? Should you be wearing a mask? It’s never a bad idea to wear a mask in public but understand that—unless you have an N95 medical mask or respirator—you’re not protecting yourself against the virus, you’re protecting others in case you have the virus. There is, of course, a chance that you could have coronavirus without knowing it. And, in that case, you could spread it to others. If you feel at all sick, just stay home. 

5. What are your surroundings? Keep a wide berth

Keeping your hands clean is vital, but keeping your mind sharp is just as important. You’ve spent your whole life shaking hands, touching doorknobs, and casually socializing with people without fear. Those cultural norms are extremely difficult to break, but in unprecedented times like these, you must be cognizant of every move you make and everything you touch. 

Social distancing is effective in curbing the spread of coronavirus. Stay six feet away from other people and keep an even wider berth from someone coughing, sneezing, or sniffling. Everyone will understand why you’re not offering up a handshake—no one will think you’re impolite or unprofessional. Give them a wave from six feet away or joke that you’d shake their hand in normal circumstances except this blog told you not to (I don’t mind taking the blame). 

Thank you for all you do, drivers, and be safe out there!

How Clean Harbors is partnering with Samsara

Clean Harbors knows what it takes to manage a large fleet of drivers. With thousands of vehicles across the United States and Canada, they needed a reliable ELD solution—one they could depend on to provide complete HOS visibility and real-time GPS, even in remote areas. After experiencing connectivity issues with their previous telematics provider, they decided to switch to Samsara earlier this year.

HOS compliance

Clean Harbors is currently rolling out Samsara’s ELD compliance solution to 4,700 vehicles. Within the branches of Clean Harbors where Samsara is currently deployed, they have been able to streamline compliance, save time, and reduce HOS violations.

“Samsara helps us follow the three golden rules of dispatching with ELD,” said Albert Giraldez, Director of Telematics at Clean Harbors. “We can make sure that our drivers have accurate HOS, we are dispatching safe and legal trucks, and the logs don’t have any needed corrections or unassigned miles.”

In fact, Clean Harbors recently worked with Samsara’s product team to help design our new compliance dashboard.

“The dashboard makes it possible to have a single reference point for compliance,” said Giraldez. “You can see if a branch is at 99% compliance, and with a single click see what’s causing the 1% violation. It’s all about ease of use.”

Real-time GPS visibility

The increased visibility provided by Samsara’s real-time GPS tracking has been critical during this period of crisis.

“Almost everything we’re doing right now is an essential service,” said Paul Thompson, Vice President of Transportation Compliance at Clean Harbors. “It’s really important that we keep track of our drivers. It’s not just dispatching at the beginning and end. It’s knowing where they are and knowing that they are safe.”

“For the managers of the branches where Samsara is already deployed, it’s super useful,” said Giraldez. “The accuracy and reliability of the data is something we didn’t have before.”

Easy installation

Although Clean Harbors is busier than ever due to COVID-19, they have been able to continue their Samsara rollout due to the ease of installation; each Samsara Vehicle Gateway takes just minutes to install. 

“Clean Harbors is a very large, complex organization. We were looking for something that was easy to install, easy to use, and could grow with us—a real partner,” said Giraldez.

Looking ahead to increase safety

With more than 15,000 powered and unpowered assets in their fleet, Clean Harbors’ vision of how connected IoT sensors can help their business goes beyond compliance. They plan to leverage Samsara’s full platform in the future to gain additional visibility into equipment use and employee safety—including through the use of AI dash cams, Asset Gateways, and more.

“That’s what excites me for the future,” said Thompson. “It’s about how we can keep our guys safer, prevent injuries, and reduce risk.”


Need decontamination work? Contact Clean Harbors

Businesses looking for decontamination work, either in response to COVID-19 contact or as a preventative measure, are encouraged to contact Clean Harbors at 855-487-7221 or deconservices@cleanharbors.com. For more information, visit their website: https://www.cleanharbors.com/coronavirus

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