Mandated Vaccinations Could Disrupt the Trucking Industry

✔️ Key Takeaways

✔️The Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate is not a given, so the road ahead remains uncertain.

✔️Many states plan to fight the mandate in court that could alter or nullify the Executive Order (EO).

✔️Regulatory and legal challenges will delay a final OSHA rule.

✔️The mandate will likely have an adverse effect on a recovering trucking industry.

✔️Lessons learned from the pandemic should remove some of the roadblocks, muffling some impacts.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden mandated vaccines for private businesses with more than ninety-nine employees. He cited the need to stop the spread of Covid-19 as the reason for this mandate.

The mandate has two exceptions. One is for employees with existing medical conditions. The other is for religious beliefs. Employees who qualify for either one would undergo weekly testing.

This mandate comes at an inopportune time with the trucking industry in the middle of peak season. So, the mandate stands to disrupt the economy, the trucking industry, and personal careers.

This blog post will cover impacts to the industry. Next month's post will deal with impacts to you, the driver. We’ll look at the big picture first and then drill down into direct impacts to you.

How We Got to Mandated Vaccines

WhenCovid-19 broke out, it hit the economy, the trucking industry, and truck drivers hard. Now, 18 months later, the impacts have declined. But now there’s a resurgence that threatens full recovery.

The data show some states with increasing Covid cases. That comes after a decline due to vaccinations. As the Delta variant spreads, hospitals are nearing full capacity again. The administration wants to avoid a repeat of last year's lockdowns. So, it has taken this course to stem the tide of rising infections.

Next, OSHA will draft rules putting the mandate into effect. But that may take some time to work its way through the bureaucracy.

Negative Impacts Likely to Throttle the Trucking Industry

The mandate would make resolution of existing issues harder. With strained supply chains and increasing consumer demand, adding the mandate could cause a difficult situation to worsen.

  • Compounds Peak Season Issues: Freight Waves reports that companies with fleets of 56 or more tractors comprise more than 50% of total tractors. So, if a small percentage of drivers refuse to take the vaccine, it would have a huge impact on the supply chain. Existing capacity constraints would likely worsen.

  • Impacts Driver Retention: Truckers who want to avoid the vaccine might move from big companies too small trucking firms. This may cause unnecessary churn. That would cause more volatility when the industry needs stability.

  • Halts progress on driver shortage: The mandate might deter candidates from seeking trucking careers.That would further magnify the driver shortage.

  • Increased buyouts of small trucking companies: The mandate could negatively affect companies fighting to keep afloat. This could spark a buying spree by big companies of those struggling for survival.

  • Delayed Deliveries and Pickups: In a Wall Street Journal article, industry leaders feel testing could cut drivers’ driving time. Testing of drivers could delay timely deliveries and pickups. That could impact warehousing and manufacturing employees, leading to shortages.

Formidable Roadblocks Impeding a Quick and Full Implementation

The EO faces several roadblocks. They consist of regulatory, legal, and medical issues. Overcoming these roadblocks will delay enactment, making implementation an uphill battle.

  • Regulatory Roadblock: In the case of health care workers, OSHA took over three months to issue a regulation requiring vaccinations. OSHA started the process in March 2021. And three months later, it released the final regulation in June 2021. Bureaucracy moves slowly.

  • Constitutional Roadblock: Many governors plan to challenge the EO. They cite overreach by the President. Critics insist it raises the constitutional issue of states’ rights vs. federal authority.

  • Discriminatory Roadblock (for unvaccinated employees): The EO includes two exemptions. One is for employees with pre-existing medical conditions. The second is for employees who have religious beliefs against taking a shot.

  • Medical Roadblock: Employees who have had Covid-19 now have natural antibodies. So, mandating a vaccine might be unnecessary. This points to a matter of due process. According to Cornell Legal Information Institute, the government must meet two criteria in issuing an OSHA rule. First, it must operate within the law. Second, it must adhere to fair procedures. It’s a tough balancing act.

On the whole, these roadblocks can stymie a quick implementation. And they might prevent a strict interpretation of the EO. That said, the OSHA rule may take more than three months to enact.

And it’s possible a court will revoke the mandate. The American Trucking Associations pointed out OSHA emergency rules don't do well when challenged in the courts.

Finally, the industry can leverage lessons learned from the pandemic to overcome some of these obstacles. The road ahead is not all bad, but it faces obstacles.

The Winding Road Ahead

You can see the road ahead presents several major roadblocks. In the end, we should see an OSHA rule that modifies the blunt force of the EO. Rather than an uneven and bumpy road, we should see one that resembles a well paved highway.

But getting there will take time. Red tape and legal challenges exist. OSHA must steer it way through both with care and discretion.

The vaccine mandate is not a foregone conclusion… nor is it a slam dunk. It’s places roadblocks in the way of industry progress. And that comes as the industry struggles to recover from the pandemic. That’s no easy task.

These roadblocks will likely be temporary. But these roadblocks come at a bad time. In the end, what’s best for drivers, like yourself, should guide government and industry alike.

At Freight Girlz Truck Dispatching, we can help keep you on the road during these uncertain times. We're an industry leader in OTR dispatching.

We owe that to our highly trained, service-minded support staff and dispatchers. When you work with them, you'll see their thoroughness and how they put your interests first.