The first rule of any public health policy should be 'do no harm.' Unfortunately, these latest mandates and the unintended consequences they’ll create fall short of that standard.
ATA is committed to giving Americans access to life-saving COVID vaccines. However, President Biden’s new vaccine mandate targeting certain employers raises a number of serious concerns for our industry and its most vital resource of all—the drivers.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, truckers have answered the call. Our member companies have been on the frontlines of this battle – keeping supply lines running so that others can work from and shelter at home, ensuring first responders and medical professionals are equipped with PPE and other critical supplies, and delivering vaccines to every corner of the country.
Most importantly, we have done this safely and thoughtfully by successfully protecting our employees and customers throughout the pandemic.
The new requirements would impact over 80 million working Americans at every company with more than 100 employees and place significant new burdens on our industry. The specific requirements for employers identified so far – and we anticipate more – include the following:
- All employers with more than 100 employees will have to ensure they are all vaccinated or test each unvaccinated employee for the virus weekly.
- Employers will have to provide paid time off for employee vaccination or recovery from the vaccine’s side effects.
- Federal contractors will have to ensure 100% of employees are vaccinated, with no option to test unvaccinated employees as an alternative.
- Violations of these requirements could result in fines that vary from about $1,000 per instance in most circumstances where there is little or almost no immediate danger to the workers, on up to $136,000 per instance for a willful or repeat violations.
We find these new requirements on the trucking industry largely unnecessary given our successful track record in maintaining the safety of drivers and other employees throughout this pandemic. We anticipate some of the policy decisions—such as the 100-employee threshold—could have substantial, adverse effects on trucking capacity and the U.S. supply chain by unnecessarily exacerbating the current driver shortage and broader labor shortage.
If the Administration were truly committed to protecting Americans, why wouldn’t it include persons working in businesses with 100 employees or less?
This indiscriminate threshold picks winners and losers and won’t effectively ensure vaccination for the vast majority of employees who work for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, or for independent contractors like owner-operators in trucking. Furthermore, it’s unclear how to implement a testing program given our drivers are traveling all across the country in any given week.
ATA President and CEO Chris Spear issued this statement in response to the proposal:
"The first rule of any public health policy should be 'do no harm.' Unfortunately, these latest mandates and the unintended consequences they’ll create fall short of that standard.
"ATA, its members and our drivers remain committed to delivering life-saving COVID vaccines, but these proposed requirements—however well-intentioned—threaten to cause further disruptions throughout the supply chain, impeding our nation’s COVID response efforts and putting the brakes on any economic revival.
"If these mandates are designed to protect Americans, then why the discriminatory 100-employee threshold, picking winners and losers for both employees and employers?
"As this proposal moves forward, ATA is examining all options and will choose a path that protects our industry—so that it can continue delivering on behalf of our country."
What Comes Next?
These regulations fall under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s existing statutory authority for emergency rules. It’s important to note the various requirements won’t immediately go into effect, as OSHA will need some time to develop its emergency rule, including exemptions on religious and medical grounds. However, agency officials have said they expect to issue the rule in weeks rather than months.
ATA has begun working with other stakeholders like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to ensure that OSHA and the White House understand the impact the rule—specifically the 100-employee threshold—would have on our supply chain, our member companies and all of our employees. It’s worth noting that OSHA emergency rules do not have a great track record when courts review them, so stay tuned on that front.
It’s also worth noting that 22 states operate individual State Plans outside of federal OSHA. Those states will have up to 30 additional days to adopt a standard that is at least as protective as the federal standard. We don’t expect states to vary substantially from the federal rule, but some may.
While this announcement is of serious concern, ATA has a deep bench when it comes to federal labor law. We’re not afraid of bullies. Rest assured, this association will choose a path that protects our industry and those we serve.
Lastly, the President’s announcement addressed other issues related to COVID requirements in schools and also provided additional support for small business, among other things. They are available here those interested: President Biden's COVID-19 Plan | The White House