As the Biden Administration as well as the Fed’s Chairman Jerome Powell continue to blame the current economic inflation crisis on supply chain “bottlenecks” and pandemic-induced shortages, the trucking industry warns that a looming vaccine mandate could decimate the trucking industry. If so, then this could only add to the supply chain crisis.
Trucking industry leaders are bracing for a major blow as OSHA is set to implement the Biden Administration’s vaccination mandate. Leaders have lamented that the trucking industry could lose two-thirds of its current number of drivers should the mandate be enforced.
The vaccine mandate is a sweeping regulation that covers every private establishment with more than 100 employees. It was announced in September, with varying compliance dates taking place between October 1 and January 1, 2022. The mandate came at a time when a record shortage of truck drivers is already occurring, and, with another huge possible loss of drivers looming, the supply chain crisis would only increase as there could be few drivers to deliver the goods.
Losing employees isn’t the only issue companies across multiple industries face. If a company does not ensure employees comply with the mandate, a business could see a fine of up to $14,000 per violation. If the company is found to have “willful” violations (i.e., failing to fire employees for not providing vaccination information), then the company could face up to $136,532 in fines.
OSHA‘s rule is to require workers who will not take the vaccine to submit to weekly COVID tests. They would also need to wear a mask at all times while on duty. Trucking company executives say that the very nature of a trucker’s job would make this part of the mandate virtually impossible. Drivers are on the road all across the United States, and it would be difficult to have them submit to testing on a regular basis. In addition, ensuring all truckers were wearing a mask while driving is unreasonable.
A group of more than ninety trucking associations have pressured the Biden Administration to release the trucking industry from the vaccine mandate. These officials warned that these mandates would cripple the industry and only serve to worsen the already-alarming supply chain crisis.
Groups such as the American Trucking Association and Truckload Carriers Association signed a letter to the Biden Administration which stated, “We want to express concern that a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain.” They cited a record-high trucker shortage as another issue.
According to the letter, the trucking officials stated, “(our group) estimates establishments covered by this mandate could lose thirty-seven percent of drivers at a time when the United States is already short 80,000 truck drivers. We are asking for flexibility regarding the mandate for transportation and supply chain workers, especially truck drivers who spend most of their time inside trucks and have little contact with either colleagues and customers.”
On Thursday, the White House delivered a “fact sheet” regarding the new OSHA rule. Multiple trucking industry officials lamented that their letter had not been heeded by the Biden Administration; there is no mention of truck drivers being exempted. The Truckload Carriers Association expressed “dismay” at the lack of exemption; they called this move on the part of the Biden Administration “disastrous” to the industry.
The TCA official continued, “(The Trucking Association) has repeatedly called on the (Biden) presidency to heed our warnings regarding this mandate’s impact on the already constrained supply chain, however, they chose to go ahead with a disastrous rule which will undoubtedly ensure the trucking industry loses a significant number of drivers . . . (who) the country is depending upon to deliver food, fuel, and presents for the upcoming holiday season, but our leadership has decided these needs are not important.”
On Saturday, it was announced that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas had issued a stay which will freeze the Biden Administration’s efforts to require workers to either show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing; the Court cited “grave statutory and constitutional” issues with the rule. However, it remains to be seen if this stay will be upheld in other courts around the country.