The American Trucking Associations believes in expanding access to the COVID-19 vaccine and encourages vaccination for all members of the trucking workforce who choose to do so. However, we have serious concerns about the impact of a federal mandate and the unintended consequences it will create.
Truck drivers have served on the frontlines of the pandemic since Day One, delivering PPE, medical supplies, food, water, gasoline, and vaccines. Our highest priority is safely keeping the nation’s supply lines open, so that vaccination can continue, medical professionals receive the supplies they need to treat patients, first responders are equipped to respond to emergencies, and shelves remained stocked with life’s essentials.
If misapplied to our industry, this mandate threatens hamper our nation’s COVID response effort. Based on survey data, we believe a vaccine mandate would fuel a surge in driver turnover and attrition, with fleets losing as much as 37% percent of their current driver workforce to retirement or smaller carriers not subject to the mandate. Even a fraction of that number would severely cripple our supply chain at a time when it’s already under enormous strain, with our industry already short 80,000 drivers of what’s needed to meet current freight demand.
In order to avert this disastrous scenario, we formally requested that the Biden Administration exempt professional truck drivers from the mandate. Amongst other reasons, we cited the fact that drivers spend the overwhelming majority of their workday alone in the cab and outdoors. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve proven to operate safely following existing CDC and OSHA guidelines. Our data shows the infection rate of employee drivers was 8.7% – well below the national infection rate.
Following our request, the Emergency Temporary Standard published on November 4 does exempt employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors. All indications thus far from the Department of Labor suggest this exemption does apply to the commercial truck driver population, with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on record saying so. While we complete our due diligence to confirm that fact in writing, we welcome this exemption for most drivers and believe it is crucial to ensuring the supply chain has the relief it needs right now.
That being said, we continue to believe that OSHA has overstepped its statutory authority, using extraordinary power unwisely by applying it across all industries at an arbitrary threshold of 100 employees that fails to factor in actual risks. As such, ATA, joined by the state trucking associations from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and other supply stakeholders, has filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asking the court to stay and ultimately vacate the mandate.
The court has already issued a brief administrative stay on the mandate, and we anticipate a more fulsome determination soon. In the meantime, ATA has created this toolkit for our member companies and their employees to help navigate the circumstances and common questions that are sure to arise.
This page will be updated as more information becomes available.