The American Trucking Associations says much of its membership can breathe a sigh of relief based on updated information Friday regarding the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate affecting companies of 100 or more employees.
“We have received indications from senior Department of Labor officials that the exception for employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors does exempt solo truck drivers from the mandate,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear stated in a letter, obtained by FreightWaves, that was emailed to his membership Friday morning.
“While we complete our due diligence to confirm this fact through official channels, this appears to be a major victory for ATA and our membership. This is a result of our pressure campaign during the rulemaking process and all of your help as ATA drafted our comments and strategy.”
In an official statement released by ATA following the letter sent to membership, Spear said he considered comments made by DOL Secretary Marty Walsh to a television news station about the new requirements, released on Thursday by DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as an “enormous victory” for the association and the industry.
“Given the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, it is vital that our industry has the relief it needs to keep critical goods moving, including food, fuel, medicine and the vaccine itself,” Spear said.
“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.”
Spear told ATA membership they would be updated when ATA gets official confirmation from DOL, and that ATA would be providing an updated “tool kit” for carriers to use in developing workforce plans for the new requirements.
The assurances received by ATA from the Biden administration is a step toward alleviating some confusion about how the mandate will actually work on the ground, and that it also may not have the devastating effect on the industry that many have been forecasting. The new OSHA rules require that employees working for companies of 100 or more employees begin the full vaccination process by Jan. 4. Those who decline must be tested at least once a week and wear a mask.
A research note published Friday by investment firm Cowen & Co. warned that if the rules stood as written — with no trucking exemption — the industry would see approximately 20% of drivers leave the market, “which would likely have a huge negative impact on the supply chain.”
Cowen also speculated that the cost for testing employees who opt not to get a vaccine would likely increase spot rates. “Carriers would likely pass testing costs on to shippers, which should drive up spot rates significantly.”