Labor secretary says most truck drivers are exempt from Covid mandate, handing industry a win

Biden's mandate to test or administer vaccines to businesses with more than 100 employees took effect Friday after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published them in the Federal Register. Businesses have until January 4th to make sure their employees have had the required shots for full vaccination. Workers who have not been vaccinated by the required shots must submit a negative Covid test every week to be allowed into the workplace. Starting Dec. 5, workers who are not vaccinated must wear masks inside their workplaces.
We've received some resistance from truckers today. Ironically, most truckers aren't covered because they drive a truck, or they ride in a cab. They wouldn't be covered," Walsh stated in an interview with Chris Hayes of MSNBC late Thursday.

According to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh most truckers are not covered under President Joe Biden’s Covid vaccine. This is a victory for an industry that warned of possible walkouts that could disrupt already stretched supply chains.

According to the Department of Labor, this mandate does not apply to workers who "do not report to a place where coworkers or customers are present." This includes truckers who travel alone or do not interact with others at their destination or point of departure. Exempt are also those who work exclusively outside or from their home.

"All indications from the Department of Labor suggest that this exemption does not apply to commercial truck driver population," Chris Spear, President and CEO of American Trucking Associations, stated Friday in a statement. He praised the provisions as "a tremendous victory for our industry and association."

CNBC was told by a Labor Department spokesperson that the vaccination and testing requirements would apply for "truck drivers who work together (i.e. two people in a truckcab) or who interact with people in buildings at their starting points or destinations."

American Trucking Associations resisted the White House mandates last month. They had warned that many drivers would not follow the rules and further disrupt the national supply chain during the holiday season, when there is already a shortage of 80,000 drivers.

Spear stated Friday that truck driver shortages are a serious problem. Spear added that it was vital for the industry to have the necessary relief to keep critical goods moving. Spear also mentioned the need for fuel and medicine.

Spear criticized OSHA's mandate despite the exemptions. He accused OSHA of using "extraordinary authority unwisely" and applying it across all industries at an arbitrarily low threshold of 100 employees, which fails to account for actual risks.

Spear stated that they are considering all possible recourses to protect every sector of the workforce from the unintended consequences resulting from this misguided mandate.

CNBC was informed Friday by a senior administration official that some industry groups' fears are unfounded. He pointed out the high compliance rates among companies that have met vaccine requirements such as United Airlines. Official said that the administration doesn't view January 4th deadline as a cliff and OSHA will help businesses implement the requirements via sample plans, factsheets, and other outreach.