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Trucking industry suing over Biden’s vaccine mandates, warning one-third of drivers may quit

The trucking industry is suing over President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy that requires private sector employers with over 100 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, the Mississippi Trucking Association and the Texas Trucking Association, joined other business groups representing various facets of the supply chain in suing the Biden administration over its employer-based COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“To be very clear, ATA and its member companies support efforts to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement.

Spear noted trucks and drivers have been on the front line fighting this pandemic since its beginning two years ago. They hauled personal protective equipment, test kits, the vaccine itself and much more as the country locked down.

“But we believe that the Biden administration has overstepped its statutory authority in issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard,” Spear said. “This standard arbitrarily picks winners and losers, and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed.”

ATA says it told the administration that this mandate, given the nature of the industry and makeup of trucking’s workforce, could have “devastating impacts” on the supply chain and the economy.

“They have, unfortunately, chosen to move forward despite those warnings,” he said. “So we are now, regrettably, forced to seek to have this mandate overturned in court.”

ATA and its state partners filed their challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That is the same circuit court that has preliminarily stayed the mandate pending a full review.

ATA was joined in the suit by 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.

“We are asking the court to stay implementation of the mandate because we believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not satisfy the statutory requirements for issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) instead of going through the proper rulemaking process,” said Nicholas Geale, ATA vice president of workforce policy.

“A stay pending full review is essential to ensure our members can continue to keep the supply chain moving without the enormous disruptions this unlawful ETS will cause the trucking industry and our nation’s consumers—including the 80% percent of American communities that depend exclusively on trucks for their needs,” Geale added.

Earlier, the ATA told the Biden administration that trucking has “grave concern” that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will damage the industry and the nation. But at the same time it believes it has an exemption from the vaccine mandate.

The mandate covers two-thirds of the nation’s workforce. Trucking wants an exemption because most truckers work in non-office settings, mostly outdoors.

The rule exempts employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors. ATA said “all indications’ from the Department of Labor suggest this exemption does apply to the commercial truck driver population.

ATA estimates that the industry could lose up to 37% of its drivers under the ETS mandates. That would significantly worsen the current driver shortage – now estimated at 80,000 due to retirements, perceived poor pay and other factors.

The new requirements, first hinted in September, could apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses. OSHA said companies that fail to comply with the regulations could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. There are approximately 60 million unvaccinated adults in this country.

“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” Biden said in a statement on Nov. 4.

“We continue to believe OSHA is using extraordinary authority unwisely, applying it across all industries at an arbitrary threshold of 100 employees that fails to factor in actual risks. We are weighing all options of recourse to ensure every segment of our industry’s workforce is shielded from the unintended consequences of this misguided mandate,” ATA’s Spear added.

Other portions of the trucking industry also protested the OSHA requirement. The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) said it was “dismayed” that trucking was not exempt from the mandate. The compliance date for the mandate is Jan. 4.

Under the OSHA ruling, the mandate requires unvaccinated workers to begin wearing masks by Dec. 5 and provide a negative COVID test on a weekly basis after the January deadline.

Trucking companies are not required to pay for or provide the tests unless otherwise required to by state or local laws. They have until Dec. 5 to offer paid time off for employees to receive the vaccine and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.

TCA said its opposition to the mandate is not political—it is simply driven by facts and the knowledge of the 24/7 efforts already being contributed by their diligent workforce.

“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,” TCA said. “Be assured that TCA will pursue every option to fight the imposition of this mandate on our members.”

NATSO, representing America’s truckstops and travel plazas, joined with other trucking interests in criticizing the proposed vaccination and testing emergency standard.    

“The travel plaza and truckstop industry supports efforts to increase vaccinations in the United States, but a federal vaccine mandate will have a significant negative impact on our industry and its ability to keep truck drivers on the road. NATSO members are a critical part of the supply chain and serve the nation’s truck drivers, who deliver life-saving vaccines,” NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said in a statement.

 “Losing additional employees on top of the current labor challenges could force some retailers to close their doors and lead to limited fuel supplies,” Mullings added.

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