In a blockbuster statement released on Friday, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said that “drivers are exempt from vaccine mandate.”

The ATA’s Friday statement came after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Interim Final Rule dealing with sweeping new private sector vaccine requirements was shared with the public on Thursday, November 4, prior to publication in the Federal Register Friday.

Under the rule, which affects private sector employers with 100 or more employees, workers must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing, effective January 4. Unvaccinated workers would also be required to wear face masks starting December 5.

While Thursday’s news drew ire from trucking industry groups (the Truckload Carrier’s Association called the mandate “disastrous” for the already struggling U.S. supply chain and the trucking industry at large), the ATA says that they believe that solo truckers will in fact be exempt from vaccine requirements due to the solitary nature of their jobs.

The ATA’s belief that many truckers will be exempt is based on a statement made late on November 4 by U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who said, “If you’re a truck driver and you’re outside, you’re in a cab driving by yourself, this doesn’t impact you. If you’re a worker outside working in the area, this doesn’t impact you.”

From ATA President and CEO Chris Spear:

“As we made clear in our comments to the Administration prior to the rule’s publication, drivers spend the vast majority of their workday alone in the cab and outside. The rule published yesterday exempts employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors, and all indications thus far from the Department of Labor suggest this exemption does apply to the commercial truck driver population.

While we complete our due diligence to confirm that fact through official channels, we see quotes from Labor Secretary Walsh as an enormous victory for our association and industry. Given the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, it is vital that our industry has the relief it needs to keep critical goods moving, including food, fuel, medicine and the vaccine itself.

We continue to believe OSHA is using extraordinary authority unwisely, applying it across all industries at an arbitrary threshold of 100 employees that fails to factor in actual risks. We are weighing all options of recourse to ensure every segment of our industry’s workforce is shielded from the unintended consequences of this misguided mandate.”

The mandate also faces multiple legal challenges.

While federal officials are still working to hammer out details on how the vaccine mandate will be applied to the work force, the ATA statement should provide some amount of relief for the trucking industry.

The ATA previously stated that they believed that the vaccine mandate could force as many as 37% of truck drivers to leave the trucking industry entirely at a time when supply chain disruptions and industry labor issues are becoming an increasing point of concern.

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