The trucking industry is bracing for a major hit over the Biden administration's vaccine mandate implemented via OSHA according to industry leaders who say the freight companies impacted could lose more than a third of their drivers over the new rule.
The sweeping regulation covering every private American company with more than 100 employees comes during a crippling supply chain crisis and a record shortage of truckers to move freight.
Beyond losing workers, companies face hefty fines under the new rule at $14,000 per violation, up to $136,532 for "willful" violations.
Those workers who choose not to get vaccinated would need to submit to weekly coronavirus tests and wear masks under the new OSHA rule, both of which trucking companies say would be impossible to enforce with drivers on the road all over the country at any given time.
Ahead of the new regulation, a coalition of more than 90 associations urged the Biden administration to exempt the trucking industry from the mandate, warning that the regulation would decimate the industry and make the supply chain crisis worse.
In an open letter to President Biden signed by the American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association, and others, the groups called for flexibility on the mandate, writing, "We are concerned a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain."
"We estimate companies covered by the mandate could lose 37% of drivers at a time when the nation is already short 80,000 truck drivers," the letter continues. "We ask for flexibility for transportation and supply chain essential workers, particularly truck drivers who spend most of their time in their trucks and have minimal contact with colleagues and customers."
After the White House delivered its fact sheet on the new OSHA rule on Thursday, the Truckload Carriers Association expressed its "dismay" that trucking was not exempted from the vaccine mandate it called "disastrous" for the industry.
"TCA repeatedly called on the Administration to heed our warnings regarding this mandate’s impact on the already constrained supply chain, yet they chose to proceed with a disastrous mandate which will undoubtedly ensure the trucking industry loses a substantial number of drivers," the association wrote. "These are the drivers the country is relying upon to deliver food, fuel, and presents for the upcoming holiday season, yet our national leadership has decided these needs must go unmet."
The TCA has joined business groups and some Republican states in vowing to challenge the new mandate in court.