Blog Post

Supreme Court to Hear ATA’s Challenge to Vax-or-Test Mandate

Jan 05, 2022

American Trucking Associations is leading a coalition of business groups to challenge the Administration’s COVID vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers

SCOTUS thumbnail

2022 begins with a bang as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments this Friday, January 7, on our request to stay the Biden Administration’s COVID vax-or-test mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees. Here’s a quick recap of events that led ATA’s legal challenge to the highest court in the land:

  • Nov. 5, 2021: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published its Emergency Temporary Standard requiring all businesses with 100 or more employees to get their workers vaccinated or tested weekly.
  • Nov. 10, 2021: ATA, joined by the state trucking associations from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a coalition of business groups, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asking the court to stay and ultimately vacate the mandate.

    Other members of our coalition include the Food Marketing Institute, the International Warehouse Logistics Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Federation of Independent Business.
  • Nov. 16, 2021: ATA’s challenge is consolidated with other similar suits nationwide and reassigned to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee Trucking Associations also joined our challenge.
  • Dec. 17, 2021: In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on the mandate. In response, ATA immediately filed an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the stay. 
  • Dec. 21, 2021: The Supreme Court announces it will hear oral arguments on our emergency application on January 7.

Why Friday’s proceedings are notable: Of the 14 or so emergency applications, ours is only one of two that the Supreme Court chose to hear oral arguments on. This presumably reflects the Court’s recognition that the seriousness of our arguments and our presentation of the issues makes our application the best vehicle for resolving this complex matter. 

Timing and Deadlines: While the Supreme Court is free to issue its decision at any time, we expect them to do so quickly in this case, in light of the current January 10 enforcement deadline for the initial phase of the ETS (with full testing requirements for unvaccinated employees set for enforcement on February 9). For more information and resources, check out our updated COVID vaccine mandate toolkit for ATA member companies.

Exemption Status of Drivers: We continue to seek confirmation from OSHA on the extent to which commercial truck drivers are exempted by the carveout for employees who work alone or outdoors (with only occasional brief indoor contacts with co-workers or customers). 

ATA formally requested truck drivers be exempted from the ETS, and U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has indicated the mandate will not apply to most truck drivers. Our request for official guidance on that topic is still pending, although OSHA is said to be working on a comprehensive update to the FAQs it first published when the ETS was released. 

Other federal COVID vaccine mandates

Separate from OSHA's ETS, there are two other mandates we are closely tracking.

Cross-Border Requirements: Canada’s vaccine mandate for foreign essential workers, including U.S. truck drivers, goes into effect January 15, 2022. The Biden Administration's mandate on Canadian drivers entering the U.S. goes into effect on January 22, 2022. 

ATA has been working with our partners in the Canadian Trucking Alliance to seek relief from this two-way mandate. Last month, 14 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Biden objecting to the cross-border mandate. While we hoped the U.S. and Canadian governments would heed our concerns on the impact this policy will have on the supply chain, ATA now believes that fleets should prepare to comply with the impending requirements. 

For more details on the U.S. requirements for foreign nationals, see the following resources:

Government Contractors: On December 7, 2021, a federal judge in Georgia halted the requirement that all employees of federal contractors are vaccinated. That nationwide stay remains in place for now.