Biden administration’s COVID-19 mandates could divide trucking industry

President Joe Biden’s recent order that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing could divide the trucking industry, industry reps say.

The 100-employee cutoff could create a two-tier workforce, industry spokespeople say, a dynamic that could play out in other sectors as well.

“If these mandates are designed to protect Americans, then why the discriminatory 100-employee threshold, picking winners and losers for both employees and employers?” says Renee Amar, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association.

Some of the smaller association companies are expressing optimism that the mandate’s exemption of companies with fewer than 100 workers would aid their recruitment efforts. The potential bifurcation that the mandate could give smaller companies not under the rule a significant advantage in hiring drivers, she says.

Amar says the proposed rules, however well-intentioned, could lead to further supply chain disruptions. The national Truckload Carriers Association, which represents long-haul carriers, says it is “concerned with the logistics of vaccinating an army of professional truck drivers operating in an irregular operating environment.”

Questions the TCA has raised include:

  • Where do drivers get tested if they conceivably are in different locations every day?
  • How do drivers receive a second vaccination at a location different from where they received their first vaccination?
  • At a time of low supply of rapid covid tests, how can drivers be tested every day, in different locations?
  • Does the 100-employee cut-off create a two-tier workforce, giving smaller carrier companies an advantage over larger over-the-road companies?
  • Will a rule requiring a vaccine or weekly test lead to a driver exodus?

The Biden administration is calling for all employers with 100 or more workers to require them to be vaccinated or tested for the virus weekly. The mandate includes exceptions for workers seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination.

The requirements will be tested in court. The administration reportedly says the rules could be finalized as early as next week.

Vaccine requirements various businesses and other organizations already have imposed have boosted vaccination rates above 90% in many cases, the White House says. Increasing vaccination rates could return up to 5 million workers to the labor force and lead to a stronger economy, officials say.