Mandatory vaccinations impacting millions of employees. The industry is shocked, with many drivers and companies scrambling for answers.
On September 9, President Joe Biden announced a number of broad measures aimed at combating COVID-19 including increasing vaccination requirements for employees. The White House said it would order the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue new rules requiring private-sector employers with more than 100 employees to need vaccination evidence or weekly testing. Businesses that fail to comply may face fines of up to $14,000 per violation.
The timeframe for implementing the vaccination requirement and the specifics of how it would be implemented remains unknown.
The White House believes that this vaccine/testing mandate would impact 80 million employees.
What Are Truckers’ Thoughts on Mandatory Vaccinations?
26% of respondents would prefer to be fired rather than be forced to vaccinate.
Since its introduction, the vaccination has been generally unpopular with members of the trucking sector.
According to a December 2020 CDLLife survey of 1,053 users, 79 percent of respondents said that they had no plans to get the vaccination when it became available. Drivers reported a variety of reasons for refusing the vaccination – some said it was hurried, some cited medical or bodily autonomy concerns, and still others expressed worry about adverse effects.
According to one survey respondent:
To be straight to the point, why would we? Absolutely zero concern was shown to drivers when the pandemic started. Many of us have been to every hot spot this country had to offer BEFORE the face mask and glove thing was going on. Let alone when the supplies were available to us ‘first responders.’ Most likely (but not a certainty considering our mostly solitary lifestyles), we already caught it a while ago and many are still around. So I ask again, why would we?
According to a CDLLife survey done after Biden’s statement on September 9, 26% of the 2200 respondents would rather be fired than get the vaccination. Another 10.3 percent said that they would forego vaccination in favor of quitting. Additionally, 7.1% of respondents said that they would begin searching for work at smaller trucking firms with less than 100 employees.
Truckers use social media to express their concerns and frustrations.
The White House statement on Thursday elicited a range of responses from the CDLLife Facebook community.
“Let’s see how severe the driver shortage is if this passes,” one user observed.
“Well, I think a lot of us are going to be fired now because I’m not going to cooperate with it and pretty much every driver I know who hasn’t already received the vaccination has said that they’re going to get fired if they don’t accept this,” another stated.
As one vaccinated user pointed out, “When it comes to power abuse, it is everyone’s decision whether to receive the vaccination or not, and yes, I am vaccinated.”
Even weeks before the White House announcement on vaccines, truckers were already considering how to use their status as essential workers to protest possible vaccine requirements by stopping their trucks — either by refusing to deliver fuel, medicine, and groceries (as they have done tirelessly throughout the pandemic, despite the lack of services they require such as rest areas and refueling stations) or by refusing to continue delivering fuel, medicine, and groceries. Several of these preparations were formed in solidarity with an Australian trucking union that is also outraged about vaccination mandates and COVID lockdowns.
Larger demonstrations may be on the way. Since August 26, 2021, a Facebook group named “Stop the Tires for Medical Freedom” has grown to over 30,000 members.
Users in trucker communities such as Black Smoke Matters are enraged and appear to be serious about a driver’s suspension. “It’s time to park the vehicles, brothers!!!” said one group member. “What are people’s reactions to Biden declaring war on the unvaccinated?” another inquired.
In the video below, Facebook user Brian Hinson expresses his indignation over the vaccination mandates and calls for drivers to stop operating their vehicles. “We’re finished. We’re finished. We’ve been on the phone, and my phone is exploding. Consider the fusion of multiple groupings. We are fully shutting down the rigs. We are unconcerned. We are retaliating. It makes no difference; we’re shutting down the 18-wheelers,” he stated.
What Do Trucking Companies Have to Say?
Vaccine demands from the White House might mean catastrophe for trucking firms already struggling with recruitment and retention difficulties. Companies are already having difficulty filling seats and keeping the supply chain flowing, and mandating drivers to get the jab or face weekly testing is unlikely to help.
However, drivers who are willing to take the vaccination may be able to leverage their decision to earn a better salary. No Limit Logistics LLC, a Colorado-based trucking firm, provided a unique perspective on how the mandate may result in increased compensation for vaccinated drivers in a September 10 LinkedIn post:
The ATA Opposes Vaccine Mandates
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) released a statement Monday condemning the vaccination mandate as “discriminatory” and vowing to “choose a route that safeguards our business.”
“While the ATA, its members, and its drivers remain dedicated to providing life-saving COVID vaccinations, these new requirements—however well-intentioned—threaten to further disrupt the supply chain, delaying our nation’s COVID response efforts and hampering any economic recovery. If these regulations are intended to safeguard Americans, why the discriminatory 100-employee barrier, which discriminates against both employees and employers?” According to the organization.
What are they planning next?
That is yet to be determined. As the White House navigates legal challenges to enact the vaccination requirement, trucking firms and drivers will be forced to make some difficult choices.
Questions that the industry as a whole will have to address include the following:
- Are massive protests on the horizon?
- Is it possible for the trucking sector to work toward obtaining a vaccination exemption? Canada, for example, mandates vaccinations for virtually all transportation employees but exempts the trucking industry.
- Is it really worth the inconvenience of finding new employment for drivers to make a point about medical liberties?
- Could the vaccination mandate prove to be an unexpected windfall for smaller trucking businesses in terms of driver recruitment?