Friday, November 05, 2021

ATA officials release statement on vaccine mandate

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today released the COVID vaccine mandate rule, and unfortunately, truckers are not exempt. Also today, the Alabama state legislature is expected to pass new requirements for companies impacted by the Biden mandate to provide documentation to employees allowing them to file religious and medical exemptions if they choose to not be vaccinated under this mandate. It is unclear whether the Biden mandate or the Alabama mandate will withstand scrutiny in court.

OSHA is giving employers with more than 100 employees a Jan. 4, 2022 deadline to comply with President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and threatening thousands of dollars in fines for defiant businesses, according to a fact sheet released by the White House Thursday.

In July, the administration began rolling out vaccination requirements for federal employees and contractors and calling on employers to do the same.

In today’s announcement, OSHA detailed the Biden Administration’s requirement for employers with 100 or more employees to ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis. Companies that fail to comply could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

The rule does exempt employees who work 100 percent alone or outdoors, so long as their indoor contact with other employees or customers is minimal (e.g., using a restroom or briefly visiting an administrative office). Trucking industry experts believe that exemption covers much of the commercial driver population, but as with any complex new rule, it is impossible to be certain how OSHA will apply it until they issue guidance or begin enforcement.

We believe this mandate will further stress the nation’s supply chain and hinder our members’ efforts to attract qualified people to the industry as truck drivers and service technicians. Therefore, we, along with the American Trucking Associations, vehemently oppose this mandate and are already considering options to file legal action.

National ATA is offering a Vaccine Mandate Tool Kit that includes frequently asked questions.

Meanwhile, here in Alabama, the legislators gave final approval to a measure that supporters say protects workers and residents in the state who want exemptions from federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 15 are two of several bills the GOP-led legislature filed in this special session to push back against federal mandates and with the intention of protecting those who choose to remain unvaccinated. While the mandates for federal workers and contractors and large employers already allow for medical and religious exemptions, supporters of Senate Bill 9 say it creates an “easy-to-use” form for employees seeking those exemptions.

Most, if not all, trucking-related businesses in Alabama are not currently requiring vaccinations for their employees; however, many would fall under the Biden vaccine mandate because they have more than 100 employees or have federal contracts. These companies would also be impacted by the state mandate which requires employers to provide religious and medical exemption documentation and then adjudicate their validity.

Clearly, Republicans in the legislature responded to their constituent’s aggressive opposition to the mandate (the trucking industry shares that aggressive opposition). While this state law will be a distracting, confusing, and burdensome process for trucking companies to administer, it is far better than some of the more egregious proposals that were filed that contained new causes of action against Alabama companies.

Our Association has been fighting the Biden vaccine mandate from day one, and we will continue that fight. It is bad for business and has little to do with protecting people’s health. Fortunately, Attorney General Steve Marshall, with Governor Ivey and Lt. Governor Ainsworth’s backing, is leading Alabama’s efforts to file suit against the Biden mandate. We will be an active supporter of this effort as well as any lawsuit or brief filed by the American Trucking Association.

We will provide more updates on all these dynamics as they happen. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.