Truckers warn of massive disruptions to supply chain due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates
By Arsenio Toledo // Nov 11, 2021

Truck drivers in the United States are warning the federal government that if it attempts to push through its Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandate against truckers, it could worsen supply shortages and have a significant negative effect on the wider supply chain crisis.


Leading members of the trucking industry have issued multiple warnings after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published its latest guidance regarding vaccine mandates for truck drivers on Nov. 4.

According to the guidelines, all companies – including those in the trucking industry – that have 100 or more employees will be required to have a fully vaccinated workforce by Jan. 4. Employees who receive exemptions must provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests weekly.

Additionally, federal government contractors have to adhere to the vaccine mandate regardless of the size of their business.

The deadline was pushed back to Jan. 4 from its original of Dec. 8 in an apparent effort to avoid further disruptions to the already strained supply chain in the middle of the holiday season. (Related: Truck driver warns supply chain crisis will not end unless port congestion, labor shortage and other long-term issues are resolved.)

Analysts are warning that unvaccinated truckers might just call it quits and retire from the industry rather than subject themselves to weekly COVID-19 testing. Such a move is expected to be devastating for a sector of the economy that has for years now been suffering from a shortage of drivers.

"The disastrous mandate will undoubtedly ensure the trucking industry loses a substantial number of drivers," said the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) in a statement. "President Biden cannot call on trucking to 'work harder' when his policies are cutting us off at the knees and depriving us of the workforce we need."

America currently has a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers. American Trucking Associations (ATA) CEO Chris Spear said back in October that this was a record high shortage of truck drivers and an increase of around 30 percent from before the pandemic.

Truck drivers may be exempted from vaccine mandate

According to OSHA's emergency temporary standard (ETS) mandating vaccinations by Jan. 4, this mandate does not apply to workers who "do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present, employees while they are working from home or employees who work exclusively outdoors."

By this definition, many truckers believe they may be exempt since drivers almost exclusively work solo. A large portion of the trucking industry is also made up of independent contractors rather than employees of businesses.

"Most drivers are not covered by this," admitted Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "They're driving a truck, they're in a cab, they're by themselves, they wouldn't be covered by this."

In a statement, the ATA said that it was interpreting OSHA's ETS the same way.

"The rule published … exempts employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors, and all indications thus far from the Department of Labor suggest this exemption does apply to the commercial truck driver population," said Spear.

To shore up this victory and make sure the federal government does not renege on the exemption for truckers, Spear and the ATA are planning to file a lawsuit against the Biden administration that would benefit not just truck drivers but the entire workforce.

"We told the administration that this mandate, given the nature of our industry and makeup of our workforce, could have devastating impacts on the supply chain and the economy," said Spear. "So we are now, regrettably, forced to seek to have this mandate overturned in court."

The ATA is warning that if truck drivers end up being forced to get vaccinated, the industry could lose as much as 37 percent of its workers. Such a situation could cause a collapse in the trucking industry, especially since estimates suggest the industry needs to recruit nearly one million new drivers by 2030.

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