Vaccine mandate for truckers? It’s still not clear

September 10, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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President Joe Biden on Thursday, Sept. 9, announced sweeping COVID-19 vaccination mandates that could affect about 100 million Americans. However, it’s unclear how truck drivers will be affected.

The measures include a vaccine mandate for all federal workers and contractors, as well as requirements that companies with 100 or more employees mandate the vaccine or regular testing. But it will likely be weeks until we know how contractors and subcontractors will be defined in the executive order, and it could be even longer to find out if company drivers for large carriers will be mandated under a rule being developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A federal task force will provide more clarification on the federal contractor mandate by Sept. 24. No firm date for OSHA’s rule had been released.

“It’s wait and see,” Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs, told Land Line Now’s Scott Thompson. “I think over the next couple of weeks we’ll have more clarification on the executive order for federal contractors. The timeline might be a little longer on the OSHA emergency temporary standard.”

Federal contractor mandate

Although we’re still waiting for concrete definitions of federal contractors and subcontractors, it is known that the executive order will not apply to grants, agreements with Native American tribes, and contracts or subcontracts that are $250,000 or less.

In addition, the order may not apply retroactively for existing contracts.

“I think another important point on the contractor, I think there’s a difference between the existing contract and the new contracts that will go into effect after this order,” Grimes said. “Certainly, the order will apply to all new contracts, but there are some differences between the existing contracts, where it may not be a mandate and more of a strong recommendation. We’re not sure that this is going to be 100% retroactive.”

OSHA emergency temporary standard

At first glance, it may seem like company drivers for the nation’s largest carriers would definitely be mandated to receive a vaccine or get regular testing because the companies have more than 100 employees.

But Grimes said it is possible that truck drivers will be viewed differently than employees at an office building with more than 100 workers.

“Company drivers are a little different,” Grimes said. “They’re not spending the majority of their time in the workplace with other people. They’re spending most of their time by themselves or with one passenger in a team driver situation.”

It’s also possible that businesses will announce their own rules before OSHA’s temporary standard is released.

“In the meantime, I would think that some of the larger motor carriers with more than 100 employees might start providing some additional information for their employees if they haven’t done so already,” Grimes said.

Supply chain disruptions

Avoiding disruptions in the supply chain and improving truck driver retention have been priorities of the Biden administration in recent months.

It is possible that the administration will try to avoid further disruptions to the supply chain by potentially exempting many truck drivers from the mandates. Throughout the pandemic, there have been various exemptions made for the transportation workforce and truck drivers because they are deemed to be essential workers.

“I think the government is going to make sure the transportation workforce and the trucking industry is going to be able to run as efficiently as possible,” Grimes said. “We’ve seen supply chain disruptions throughout the course of this year. They want to minimize that as much as they can, so we will wait and see what the details will be.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.