Many Logistics Firms Are Avoiding Covid-19 Vaccine Requirements Amid U.S. Mandate Debate

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Big trucking groups are fighting federal rule in court while freight transport and warehousing firms say they encourage vaccinations but won’t demand them

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The federal mandate, which will take effect January 4, exempts workers who are exclusively outdoors and do not report at the workplace where they interact with others. So this could leave out many truck drivers but not office and warehouse workers who help move goods from factories to shops and residences.

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JB HUNT TRANSPORT SERVICES INC. This exemption for truckers is “still not a complete relief, because we have too many mechanics, we have too many warehouses,” said Nick Hobbs, chief operating officer of the US during a conference hosted by financial services firm Robert W. Baird & Company on Tuesday. “It’s still going to cause a lot of disruption if the vaccine mandate remains in place.”

The Lowell, Ark.-based transportation and logistics company is building a software program for employees to upload the status of their vaccinations or be notified that they will need to be tested weekly, Mr. Hobbs said. But JB Hunt is relying on a federal appeals court that has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s mandate to do so permanently, he said.

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The American Trucking Association, which represents the big carriers, and several of its state affiliates said they filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit urging that court to block the mandate. The National Retail Federation, representing major retailers, and other professional trade associations joined suit.

The court is the one that issued last week the Biden administration to temporarily block enforcement of the rule.

The ATA said in a statement that it encourages workers to get vaccinated but that the rule “puts employers in the untenable position of forcing workers to choose between taking workers to work and their personal medical decisions.”

Freight transportation and logistics companies that have operated throughout the pandemic have different programs involving masking and social distancing, but generally do not require that employees be vaccinated.

UPS, the largest employer in the transportation sector with more than half a million workers, requires immunizations for employees returning to offices from remote work. But it is not imposing a mandate on the thousands of drivers working at distribution centers and at facilities that follow masking and other guidelines during the pandemic.

UPS has run an internal “It’s Your Shot” campaign to emphasize the importance of vaccinations to its employees.

Amazon, which has nearly a million employees in the US and a large network of fulfillment centers, told warehouse workers they can skip their masks if they are fully vaccinated through Nov. Unless federal, state or local law says otherwise.

The company has not mandated that workers be vaccinated and allowed them to be revaccinated earlier this year as the highly permeable Delta version, before reviving that requirement in August.

rider system Inc.,

Ryder’s chief human resources officer Frank Lopez, which provides outsourced transportation and warehousing services to retailers and manufacturers, is encouraging but does not require vaccinations to its employees. “Since the vaccines were first announced, it has been Rider’s stated intention that staff do not need to be vaccinated,” Mr. Lopez said.

A Ryder spokesperson said the company requires employees who work with outside companies to comply with customer requirements when they work with those customers.

A spokesman said some of Penske Logistics Inc. Delivery staff at hospitals have to be vaccinated to meet hospital orders, but the Reading, Pa.-based logistics provider doesn’t usually require its employees to vaccinate, a spokesperson said. “We plan to give employees the option of following up on vaccinations or weekly testing,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson said the company is offering incentives such as AirPods, travel bags and wireless speakers to vaccinated workers.

Several logistics and freight companies said their lawyers are studying nearly 500 pages of guidance issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on November 4 to determine which workers may be exempted from the mandate because The rules are now written.

There are exemptions for outside and lonely workers that could apply to thousands of employees, including truck drivers who drive alone in their cabs and do not interact with workers as part of their run. But according to OSHA estimates, the portions covered by mandates in various sectors of the logistics industry are much larger.

As per the guidance, 739,360 of the 878,429 employees that fall under the truck transport industry are covered by the rule.

Lydia O’Neal at [email protected]

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