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Truck Drivers and the Vaccine Exemption: What You Need to Know

The Biden administration announced a new rule in early September that would require all employers in the United States to either ensure that their employees are vaccinated against coronavirus by January 4, 2021 or test negative for coronavirus at least once a week. 

This rule applies to companies with 100 or more employees and covers about 84 million workers across the country.

The mandate included provisions to make it easier for employers to comply, including a provision that allows employees who receive vaccines to take paid time off from work to recover from any side effects. 

The rule also said that anyone who was not vaccinated should wear a protective mask while in the workplace.

Pushback against the vaccine mandate

The United States Court of Appeal for the 5th Circuit stated that President Joe Biden’s mandate to require workers to receive the vaccines was constitutionally concerning.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has told businesses to push ahead with the vaccine mandate.

Republican state officials also reacted with swift rebukes against President Joe Biden’s newly detailed mandate for private employers to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, threatening a wave of lawsuits and other actions to thwart a requirement they see as a stark example of government overreach. 

At least two conservative groups moved quickly to file lawsuits against the workplace safety mandate, and a growing roster of GOP governors and attorneys general said more lawsuits were on the way.

State officials spoke out against the proposed rule as soon as it was made public, with some threatening to sue to stop the mandate. One of those states is South Carolina, which has joined other states that plans to challenge the regulation in court and file additional lawsuits against it. 

“This rule is garbage,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “It’s unconstitutional and we will fight it.”

In spite of this pushback, it’s possible that the mandate will be upheld. In recent years, however, there has been a pushback against this type of mandate from both sides of the political spectrum. Many people believe that vaccines are not a public health issue but rather a violation of personal liberties. Others feel that mandatory vaccinations violate individual freedoms and should be left up to individuals to decide.

A mandate would be of concern to many truck drivers in particular, many of whom oppose vaccinations for a variety of reasons. Some truck drivers believe that vaccines are unnecessary and possibly unsafe. Others object to government mandates, and in addition, many truck drivers are members of religious groups that do not support vaccinations.

The vaccine mandate could fuel a truck driver shortage

Therefore, a mandate could further exacerbate the truck driver shortage that’s already facing the industry.

Currently, there are about 80,000 open truck driver jobs in the United States. Many experts believe that the industry will be facing a continued shortage of drivers. This shortage could be exacerbated even further if a mandate requiring vaccinations is upheld. 

The impact of a vaccine mandate on the trucking industry would also have an impact on other industries that rely on truckers such as agriculture and construction. In addition, it could affect how we handle pandemics in the future. 

If a pandemic requires mandatory vaccination protocols for workers, what happens when people object to these mandates? This could lead to widespread resistance against mandatory vaccination protocols in general which would make it more difficult for us to respond quickly and effectively during a pandemic crisis.

Are truck drivers exempt from the vaccine mandate?

The American Trucking Association (ATA) says that truck drivers are exempt from the vaccine mandate. On November 5, the ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said that this exemption is vital for the supply chain and the industry to continue operating. 

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear stated: “As we made clear in our comments to the Administration prior to the rule’s publication, drivers spend the vast majority of their workday alone in the cab and outside. The rule published yesterday 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.”

Truck drivers see these quotes as an enormous victory for the industry. Given the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, it is vital that the industry has the relief it needs to keep critical goods moving, including food, fuel, medicine and the vaccine itself.

The American Trucking Associations, along with other supply chain-related organizations in the U.S., have sued the federal government over the mandate.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking to enforce an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would require workers to get vaccinated. ATA called for a stay of the ETS based on concerns that the standard was not properly implemented. It argued that the rule had not gone through the proper rulemaking process and should be stopped until it does.

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Covid Vaccine Mandate Suspended by Courts

By November 18th, enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement was suspended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). This comes after a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana halted the President’s vaccine and testing mandate for large companies. The November 6th court decision halts OSHA from implementing the mandate requirements, so OSHA suspended its enforcement of the mandate pending the outcome of future litigation. The court challenge claims OSHA exceeds its authority with the mandate.

Takeaways

The coronavirus has put the spotlight on the need for better pandemic preparedness. The government is trying to ensure that all workers are vaccinated against this new virus, but there are some who believe that this mandate goes too far.

The trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers, and this could be exacerbated if the coronavirus mandate is upheld. Lawmakers are pushing back against the mandate, which was paused, but the federal government is saying that it will enforce it.

The ATA is suing the government over the mandate, and many truck drivers are celebrating this as a victory for them.

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