The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated guidelines regarding President Biden’s COVID-19 mandate for businesses. The directive requires all private sector businesses with 100 employees or more to establish vaccination requirements by January 4, 2022 or require weekly COVID testing for unvaccinated employees.
OSHA’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) provides details on how companies can achieve this, including providing time off for vaccinations, accommodations, and payment for testing. OSHA’s rule also provides several exemptions for individuals who have low- or no risk of infection. Adding another layer of complexity, an appeals court has put the ruling on hold temporarily. However, this doesn’t mean trucking companies can ignore the ETS, as there is no way to know how long the court’s order will last.
What Trucking Companies Need to Know About the ETS Exemptions
Many notable voices within the trucking community, including the American Trucking Association (ATA), have raised concerns about OSHA’s latest rule. The foremost concern is that OSHA’s rule doesn’t provide a specific exemption for truck drivers. However, most commercial drivers qualify for an exemption based on OSHA’s updated ETS. Examples of employees who qualify for an exemption include:
- Employees who work remotely
- Employees who work alone
- Employees who work exclusively outdoors with negligible use of indoor facilities, such as using an indoor restroom
Many commercial drivers qualify based on the above exemptions. However, drivers that work in teams and drivers undergoing indoor training do not.
Despite these exemptions, many in the trucking industry remain wary of OSHA’s ETS. Without a specific exemption for commercial truck drivers, fleets can’t be certain how OSHA will enforce the rule.
What Commercial Drivers Need to Know About the COVID Vaccine Mandate
Complex rulings generate confusion and misinformation. Some common questions commercial drivers raise include:
- Will I lose my job if I don’t get the vaccine? No, the mandate requires companies with 100 employees or more to either get vaccinated or receive weekly testing to prove their negative COVID status.
- If I get sick after receiving the vaccine, can I take PTO? OSHA requires that companies provide up to four hours of PTO to employees after they receive the vaccine or a reasonable recovery period should they experience any side effects. However, truck drivers should note that employers can require employees to use their accrued leave for vaccination-related PTO requests.
- Do I still need a vaccine or testing if I have a positive antibodies test? Even with antibodies against COVID, OSHA requires employees to get the vaccine or receive a COVID test. Antibodies don’t provide employees with a fully vaccinated status. However, employees may be exempt from testing in the short term, as false positives remain common during the first few months of recovery after a COVID infection.
ATA and others within the trucking community are seeking clarification from OSHA regarding commercial drivers’ exemption status. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to stay up to date on the latest trucking safety regulations.