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Biden vaccine mandate may worsen low driver retention rates

Driver refusals could heavily impact large fleets

Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate could put more pressure on carriers trying to keep seats filled. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

An emergency rule being developed by the U.S. Department of Labor mandating vaccines or weekly testing for workers at companies with 100 or more employees is likely to exacerbate the already low driver retention rates in the trucking industry.

“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this — United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and even Fox News,” said President Joe Biden in announcing the new requirement at the White House on Thursday. “The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

Biden said that the rule — which will affect over 80 million private sector workers across the country — will have a provision for those who do not want to get vaccinated to show a negative COVID-19 test result at least once a week. The Labor department will require employers covered under the mandate to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated.

Trucking companies with approximately 50 tractors can have at least 100 employees, based on rough estimates. Statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and FreightWaves Passport Research reveal that fleets with 56 or more tractors make up roughly 1.3% of the nation’s fleets but over half of the total number of tractors (see chart).

That means a large number of seats could wind up unfilled if even a small percentage of drivers refuse to get the vaccine, at a time when trucking companies are already straining to fill seats in order to take advantage of the high demand for their services.

The American Trucking Associations pointed out that the mandate will not be felt immediately.

“The [Department of Labor’s] Occupational Safety and Health Administration will need some time to develop its emergency rule for businesses with over 100 employees,” ATA commented in response to the plan.

“It is also worth noting that OSHA emergency rules do not have a great track record when courts review them, so they will need to carefully consider costs and benefits. As part of that process, ATA will ensure that OSHA and the White House understand the implications of the rule to our supply chain, each ATA member and all our employees.”

Businesses that do not comply with the mandate could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The publication also cited research showing that Montana is the only state that has banned private employers from requiring workers to get a COVID vaccine. “Other Republican-led states could take steps to fight federal efforts to require employers to have their employees get vaccinated,” the Journal said.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. LionkingZ

    I suggest all drivers affected by this stupid rule, go on strike like they did in Australia.
    We support you guys in this resisting the Nazi like administrative state we have now.
    If anyone can point out how the administrative state is NOT acting like the Nazi administrative state in 1930’s-1945 Germany, I’m open to hear about it.

    1. Kevin Nussbaum

      Instead of going on strike, come work for a great smaller company that treats you tons better than any of the mega-carriers will. I have one opening in my 20 truck fleet today! No mandates here, just respect!!

  2. Tristam Harrington

    In truth it is protecting vaccinated workers from having to do all the work of unvaccinated workers when they get sick. Just saying.

    The other is protecting people who need hospital or ICU beds for non Covid issues as all the beds are being taken up by unvaccinated people and burning out the healthcare workers so they are exhausted even if a bed is available.

    Free and effective vaccine and having to go to these lengths to get people to get the shot is crazy. We lined up as kids at school to get vaccinated in mass with a gun-syringe.

    1. Mike

      It is the vaccinated that are dropping like flies, the vaccine is the delta variant. Do some research and quit listening to the BS the media is feeding you. Put down the spoon.

    2. Sam

      Can you produce the actual numbers of ICU beds occupied by unvaccinated vs. vaccinated. Perhaps then we might consider the merit of your point.

  3. Craig Leonard

    This can be nothing but good news for small fleets struggling to find drivers. More drivers leaving the mega’s and looking for work

    1. FLE+LLC

      When is enough going to be enough to push back against this tyrannical government that is clearly farly overreaching its mandate It is in a feverish lust for power over everything you do, the Democrats will stop at absolutely nothing to make sure they control every aspect of your life and everything you are required to put in your body !!!

  4. Sam

    “The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

    Is it just me, or is there something very odd about the Presidents words above?

    Wasn’t protecting you from the disease and from unvaccinated co-workers the original purpose of the vaccine?

    Has it served that purpose? If you are at risk from unvaccinated co-workers, I guess not.

    What is the purpose of the vaccine again?

    1. FLE+LLC

      EXACTLY !!! How is this being labeled a vaccine when you still have to protect the “vaccinated” from people with the disease… Clearly people need to read the definition of inoculation and understand what it actually means !! This entire thing is a flex of power from the federal government It has nothing to do with the vaccine but has everything to do with enriching the big pharmaceutical companies and proving how far they can expand their power into your personal life !!

    2. DL

      You took the words right out of my mouth. If the vaccine works as advertised there should be no worry about those that are unvaccinated. His mandate is classic government overreach. It cannot stand. Natural immunity is by far the best scenario and he doesn’t even address it. There isn’t a single person in any field that can definitively say what the long term impact will be on an individual. It has not been fully vetted until long term studies have taken place and results reported. Any one that tries to tell anyone differently is only hypothesizing or lying to achieve a result. This mandate is not to protect anyone, don’t be fooled. Everyone needs to do what is right for them. Do your research and consult with your physician; then make your choice.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.