There have been supply chain issues for months, but trucking associations warn that the supply chain dilemma may get significantly worse before it gets better because of vaccine mandates. More than 90 associations delivered a warning to President Joe Biden with regard to his vaccine mandate — noting that the order may force nearly 40% of truckers out of the industry.
In September, President Biden announced a sweeping vaccine mandate for U.S. companies with more than 100 employees. This week, Biden unveiled more details about the federal vaccine mandate, including that employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022. Unvaccinated employees are forced to be tested for coronavirus weekly — which could end up costing a worker more than $500 a year. Companies with more than 100 employees that employ unvaccinated workers who are not tested weekly face penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of $13,653 for each employee who fails to comply with Biden's vaccine mandate. Businesses can be punished with a fine of as much as $136,532 for a willful violation, according to Department of Labor officials.
A coalition of associations, representing various industries, including agriculture, construction, energy, food service, manufacturing, trucking, and warehousing sent Biden a letter.
"While we represent different industries, we share the common burden of current supply chain disruptions, which are driving up prices and leading to a growing shortage of goods in the United States, with the holidays just around the corner," the open letter stated.
"As business leaders and proud Americans, we are firmly committed to this country's economic recovery," the coalition said. "We are working to usher in a return to normalcy and striving to help all Americans enjoy a better way of life by providing them with access to the essential products and supplies they need."
The coalition said it is committed to the "fight against COVID-19" and "support[s] the use of vaccines to fight its spread." However, the coalition warns Biden how his vaccine mandate could cause the supply chain to be even more dysfunctional.
"However, we are concerned a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain," the letter said. "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 coalition asked 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."
Dave Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, said, "Our professional truck drivers could end up leaving this industry and affect the delivery mode that this country enjoys so heavily."
American Trucking Associations, a federation with state trucking association affiliates in all 50 states that has been around for over 86 years and signed the letter to Biden, sounded the alarm about a record shortfall of truckers last month.
Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, told CNN that the trucking industry has a record-high shortage of 80,000 drivers. Spear said the shortage is 30% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Trucking Associations cautioned that if nothing is done, the shortage is estimated to widen to 160,000 truck drivers by 2030.
Spear noted that truckers transport 71% of the U.S. economy's goods, but represent only 4% of the vehicles on the roads.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published on Oct. 28 found that 37% of unvaccinated workers said they would quit their job if their employer required them to get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested weekly.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) commented on the situation this week: "If Biden's OSHA & Fed contractor vax mandates are strictly applied to truckers, there will be a supply chain disaster. 37% of truckers say they'll quit, retire, or switch jobs if the mandate hits them. Some can switch to smaller companies, but if 5% quit or retire, it'll be BAD!"
During a House Agriculture Committee meeting on Wednesday, Jon Samson, executive director at the American Trucking Association, said, "The trucking industry is not anti-vaccination, we are anti-supply chain inefficiency. A lot of larger truck lines have drivers with vaccine hesitancy."