U.S. truck drivers largely exempt from vaccine, testing rules for large businesses

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A large share of truck drivers who work for big U.S. fleets will not face vaccine or testing requirements under rules introduced for U.S. businesses with 100 or more employees.

In an update released on Wednesday, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed its requirements will not apply to truck drivers who do not occupy vehicles with other individuals as part of their work duties.  Nor will they apply to truck drivers who encounter other individuals exclusively in outdoor settings.

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Minimal time in an indoor setting, like using a multi-stall bathroom or dropping off paperwork in an administration office, is also allowed. But OSHA said it will consider how much time is spent indoors when applying the standards.

“The requirements of the ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard] apply to truck drivers who work in teams [e.g., two people in a truck cab] or who must routinely enter buildings where other people are present,” OSHA said.

The notice aligns with a statement by U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh that had been previously reported by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which along with other business groups has been fighting the related ETS in court. Verbal arguments in that challenge were made last Friday before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Although we are pleased that our advocacy has resulted in an exemption for a large portion of our driver workforce, we believe this guidance is still too narrow and fails to fully address our concerns as it relates to team drivers and other segments of our workforce,” said Nick Geale, ATA vice-president – workforce policy, in a statement to members.

“We continue to believe OSHA overstepped its statutory authority with this ETS, and we remain optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike this mandate down.”

A separate vaccine mandate that would apply to Canadian truck drivers who cross the Canada-U.S. border is scheduled to take effect Jan. 22. Canada Border Services Agency officers will begin blocking partially vaccinated or fully vaccinated American truck drivers beginning Jan. 15.

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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