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Trucking Executives: New COVID-19 Mandate Will Worsen Driver Shortage

Vaccination of senior person in hospital

Executives at some large trucking companies told the Wall Street Journal a new federal mandate that requires some truck drivers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or turn in negative test results weekly will make the driver shortage in America worse.

Under the proposed federal plan, companies with 100 or more employees would have to require that their workers be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly testing for the virus. According to the American Trucking Associations, more than 97% of U.S. trucking companies operate fewer than 20 trucks.

Still, the weekly testing requirements would be a logistical nightmare for companies that have drivers who refuse the vaccine but are hauling goods across the country, for several days or weeks at a time. And companies that are already struggling to hire and retain drivers and keep stores stocked would be hit the hardest, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We’re in an industry where we can’t afford any fallout. We don’t have enough drivers today,” said Eric Fuller, chief executive of U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reportedly plans to set an emergency temporary standard to begin the mandate in the coming weeks.

U.S. Xpress estimated that under half of its 7,000 drivers are vaccinated. The company isn’t requiring its workers to get the vaccine, but leadership is encouraging drivers to.

“We’re not necessarily comfortable with the government mandating it,” Mr. Fuller said.

Executives are worried that drivers who refuse to get vaccinated will join smaller fleets that don’t fall under the mandate or turn to other lines of work — worsening driver retention and potentially leading to empty shelves, according to The Wall Street Journal. But Kirk Graves, director of transportation at Chainalytics Inc., said the long-term health benefits from the federal plan could outweigh the short-term pain.

“The economy has already been affected in trucking and warehousing,” he told reporters.

“People being out now in dribs and drabs because they’re sick with Covid, or because their loved ones are sick, or they’re in quarantine, that’s going to continue to affect things.”