Labor Minister Says Most Truck Drivers Are Exempt From Covid Mandate Bringing Industry Benefit

Trucks move goods along the Massachusetts Railroad in Grafton, Massachusetts.

David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Most truck drivers are not covered by President Joe Biden’s Covid vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses, a victory for an industry that has warned of potential strikes that will disrupt already strained supply chains, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said.

“Today we heard some rebuff from truckers. The irony is that most truckers do not qualify because they are driving a truck, they are in the cab, they are alone, they will not be protected by it, ”Walsh told MSNBC Chris Hayes late Thursday.

The Biden vaccine or testing mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees went into effect Friday after the OSHA published the requirements in the Federal Register. Companies must ensure by January 4th that their employees have received the vaccinations required for a full vaccination. After that date, unvaccinated workers must take a negative Covid test weekly to be admitted to the workplace. Unvaccinated workers must wear masks indoors in their workplaces from 5 December.

However, the mandate exempts workers “who do not show up at a workplace where other persons, such as colleagues or customers are present,” including truck drivers who are alone in their cab or who do not interact with others at the point of origin or destination, according to the Department labor. People who work from home or exclusively outdoors are also exempt from paying taxes.

“All the data coming from the Department of Labor so far suggests that this exemption does indeed apply to commercial truck drivers,” Chris Speer, President and CEO of the American Freight Association, said Friday in a statement, welcoming the provisions “as huge the victory of our association and industry. “

Vaccination and testing requirements will apply to “truck drivers who work in teams (for example, two people in the cab of a truck), or those who interact with people in buildings at their destinations or starting points,” a ministry spokesman told CNBC labor.

The Freight Forwarders Associations of America, which opposed mandates of White House officials in the Office of Management and Budgeting last month, warned that many drivers would leave rather, follow the rules, which will further disrupt national supply during the holiday season, when the industry is already short of 80,000 drivers.

“Given the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, it is vital that our industry has the help it needs to maintain vital supplies, including food, fuel, medicine and the vaccine itself,” Speer said Friday.

Despite the exceptions, Spear continued to criticize the mandate, accusing OSHA of “misuse of emergency powers, applying it across all industries with an arbitrary threshold of 100 employees that does not take into account actual risks.”

“We are weighing our options for seeking help to ensure that every segment of our industry workforce is protected from the unintended consequences of this erroneous mandate,” Speer said.

Senior executives told CNBC on Friday that fears from some industry groups are unfounded, pointing to high compliance rates among companies that have introduced vaccine requirements, such as United Airlines. The official said the administration does not view the January 4 deadline as a cliff, and OSHA will help businesses meet requirements through model plans, newsletters, and other forms of outreach.

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