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OSHA ETS on COVID-19 wouldn’t apply to most truckers, labor secretary says

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Washington — The majority of truck drivers will be exempt from OSHA’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and masking, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said during a recent TV interview.

Should the ETS survive the multiple legal challenges it’s facing, it would apply to employers with more than 100 employees. Those employers would have until Dec. 5 to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy – or develop a policy that gives employees the choice to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Meanwhile, covered employees would have a deadline of Jan. 4 to be fully vaccinated or begin undergoing weekly COVID-19 testing. Unvaccinated workers also would be required to wear a face covering while indoors or in a vehicle “with another person for work purposes.”

Reacting to concerns from trucking groups – including the American Trucking Associations – over the ETS, Walsh said during the interview on CNBC that “the ironic thing is most truckers aren’t covered by this because they’re driving a truck, they’re in a cab, they’re by themselves. They wouldn’t be covered by this.”

ATA and other groups fear that many drivers would leave the industry as a result of the ETS, amid a perceived shortage of drivers.

In a statement issued shortly after Walsh’s comments, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear called them “an enormous victory for our association and industry.”

Spear continued: “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 (COVID-19) vaccine itself.”

 

In a letter dated Oct. 21 and addressed to Sharon Block, acting administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Spear wrote that the association was “gravely concerned” about the impact the ETS would have on the industry, which he estimated could lead to a loss of “up to 37% of drivers to retirements, attrition to smaller carriers and/or conversion to independent contractor owner-operators.”

A Department of Labor spokesperson told CNBC that the vaccination, testing and masking requirements would apply to truck drivers who work in teams – such as two people in a cab – or those who “interact with people in buildings at their destinations or starting points.”

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