COVID-19: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
COVID-19 has come to affect almost everyone in the global community - whether someone you know has been infected, or you have experienced symptoms yourself. The pandemic has impacted all businesses and all industries around the globe, however, few have been as drastically impacted as the transportation and travel industries. For those whom traveling remains inevitable, we’ve got some advice to help guide you through uncharted waters to help make informed travel decisions. So, for now...
What is the safest way to travel?
Despite a bit of a bad rap, air travel in most planes is relatively safe. This is a function of new studies that show airflow patterns dramatically affect the transmission of COVID. In a pressurized cabin, on all jet service, cabin air is 100% recycled and replaced every 2 to 3 minutes. New outside air is brought in through action of a plane’s engines and recycled air is run through a high-end HEPA filtration system. Since plane air flows down (from individual vents above each seat) and slightly to the side of the cabin and exits (returns) through the floor, cabin airflow is mostly vertical. So, if you are sitting next to someone who is sick, you have a relatively low probability of virus transmission. The problem with air travel is the touch points both on the plane (seats, tables, bins, bathrooms, etc.) and in the terminal (well, everywhere). There is no getting around the reality that air travel is relatively risky despite the favorable airflow profile.
Trains suffer from the same touch point issues and airflow is linear as ingress and egress vents are usually placed away from each other near the ends of a car. This creates a flow that goes from one end of the car to the other distributing particulate (including viruses) throughout the car. Coupled with innumerable touch points, trains and subways are actually less safe than air travel.
The bottom line is that for public transportation, COVID-19 is communicable through any form of direct or indirect contact with an infected person, and public transportation makes it difficult to limit the number of people with whom you are exposed to in transit. The simplest way to cut your exposure to large numbers of people is to not go to public locations. For travel, that means avoiding airport terminals, rail station terminals, bus terminals and any other central transportation locations when possible.
Which, for this criteria, leaves us with ground transportation.
Providing that you are traveling either with team members you know well or friends and family you know are not positive for COVID, you are relatively safe traveling via ground. Private ground transportation covers a small set of travel types. Primarily: rideshare (e.g. Uber and Lyft), taxi service (hundreds of small to large operators), and chauffeured services (this includes small to large operators and is also known as black car service, executive car service, or private car service).
Are some ground services more hygienic options than others?
Taxis for instance, do not necessarily adhere to disinfecting standards being recommended by industry trade groups. This is simply because many taxi drivers are employees that drive company-owned vehicles and who might not disinfect or even clean between trips. Rideshare scores a bit better here as most of the big companies (e.g. Uber and Lyft) have actively engaged in disinfecting protocols and education of their drivers.
Like taxi drivers, protocol adherence for rideshare drivers is also an issue. Rideshare drivers are understandably motivated by concern for their personal health-safety. There is substantial anecdotal data that indicates cleaning between rides is focused more on the front seat environment than the back.
Chauffeured services scores better than both here as there has always been a cultural imperative towards cleansing between trips so that the next passenger always enters a pristine vehicle. Like rideshare companies, most black car companies have also invested in disinfecting protocols and education. Chauffeured service’s combination of a cleanliness culture with new protocol yields the best health-safety results between rideshare, taxi and black car service.
What makes ground transportation the safer way to travel?
No drivers, or passengers, of any ground service type can know if previous passengers were carriers of COVID-19. Passengers also don’t know if the vehicle has been properly disinfected right before they were picked up. This makes it somewhat of a numbers game - all ground service types have fewer physical and personal contact points as noted above. Another data point of near equal importance is that there are fewer ground passengers per vehicle per day than there are public transportation passengers per vehicle per day (many more people than you’d care to count). When factoring all of the criteria explored above, ground transportation, regardless of service type, has a better health-safety profile than either air or rail.
How does drvn keep chauffeurs and passengers safe from Coronavirus?
Although the drvn standard has always been about our impeccable chauffeurs maintaining immaculately kept vehicles, we now find ourselves in an environment that demands more. drvn has enacted new protocols in our technology platform and with our chauffeurs in the present and ‘post-COVID’ world.
Dispatching chauffeurs for pre-arranged service is a surprisingly complex process that has only gotten more complex as COVID dictates changes to ensure passenger health-safety.
Effective in April, drvn now requires confirmation from a chauffeur, via drvn’s automated system, that they have cleaned and fully disinfected the vehicle before it can be cleared for departure en route to a pickup location.
Prior to departure, drvn chauffeurs must confirm that they have a normal temperature and are not presenting symptoms that might indicate infection. They must have hand sanitizer, be wearing a mask, and have disinfected the vehicle. This is a checkpoint process where the chauffeur goes through a symptoms list confirming they have none of the CDC listed symptoms, which are updated weekly as information becomes available. Only when drvn receives confirmation that there are no presenting symptoms can a chauffeur be released for a pickup point.
Prior to arrival at a pickup location, the driver must confirm that they have their mask in place and are ready to pick up drvn passengers. This is an ‘all-clear’ that must be confirmed prior to be released as being “On Location.”
After each trip, our chauffeurs sanitize their vehicle with CDC endorsed alcohol-based disinfectants and all surface areas are sprayed with a disinfectant that have non-toxic residual disinfecting properties. Some vehicles in the drvn fleet include a plastic shield partition between the backseat and the chauffeur. This feature is subject to availability and we encourage passengers to reach out to a drvn ride specialist to request a vehicle with a partition when they request a quote for service.
All drvn chauffeurs are limiting hand-to-hand contact with passengers - although they will still always help you with your bags. Today, they are discouraged from shaking your hand and instead are encouraged to offer a slight respectful bow when introducing themselves. A number of drvn chauffeurs may also wear gloves to limit the distribution and amassing of the virus.
What can passengers do to adhere to CDC recommendations for travel?
As with all forms of influenza, the key to combating Coronavirus is keeping your hands to yourself and washing them regularly. Before getting into your drvn vehicle, use antibacterial soap, getting in between fingers, and scrubbing for at least 2 minutes. Yes, that may seem like a long time, but pretend you're on your favorite medically-themed show.
Wearing masks helps prevent accidental release of fluids through the nose and mouth which is the primary cause of infection. It also discourages the touching of eyes, mouth and nose, which are the primary entry points for COVID-19. Wearing masks is a sign of respect for you, your fellow passengers and your drvn chauffeur. Social distancing (the six foot rule) is another two-way technique for not infecting others or infecting yourself. For traveling, this can be a bit harder to achieve and maintain. Accordingly, drvn has amended its standard occupancy guidelines by cutting occupancy rates in half and not allowing any front seat passengers. Unless the passengers are immediate family members living together, we respectfully ask all drvn passengers to comply with this, hopefully temporary, protocol.
What happens if a drvn chauffeur tests positive for Coronavirus?
Though we have yet to have a chauffeur test positive, the first step we have in our COVID protocol is to notify drvn ride specialists to reach out to all passengers serviced by that particular chauffeur in the previous two-week period. We would advise them to reach out to their healthcare provider, take precautionary steps to ensure their health, and quarantine from others. The second step is to remove that chauffeur from circulation for a minimum of 3 weeks and to show two consecutive COVID-19 tests that are negative. Only then would a chauffeur be considered to drive for a drvn passenger.
We appreciate that life never stands still and in a time where so much has slowed down, we know there are people and businesses who must still forge ahead, which often means travel. We at drvn are here to serve you and hope we can help you stay informed. Together we want to make the safest travel decisions possible.
Safe and healthy travels for all!