Solo Truck Drivers Exempt from OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Businesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 by strongly encouraging vaccination. The measures are expected to cover 84 million people. Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.
It is important to note that there are some exemptions for employees, primarily those who work exclusively outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors. As such, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is on record clarifying that solo truck drivers are exempt from the mandate. This exemption is a huge victory for the trucking industry. It does not appear to be applicable for all facets of the trucking industry (office administrative staff, mechanics, tank cleaning personnel, etc.), and the exempt drivers do not reduce the aggregate number of employees to render the employer under the 100-count threshold.
NTTC is pleased that solo truck drivers will be exempt from the COVID-19 ETS. NTTC maintains that the tank truck industry is a committed partner in the fight against COVID-19, and we unequivocally support the use of vaccines to fight its spread. However, NTTC is concerned a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain, and asks for additional flexibility for all transportation and supply chain essential workers, particularly those who have minimal contact with colleagues and customers. NTTC supports the positions of peer trade organizations, including American Trucking Associations, that urge vaccine mandate flexibility addressing the arbitrary threshold of 100 employees.
Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Details
The ETS covers employers with 100 or more employees – firm or company-wide – and provides options for compliance. The ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and to allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
The ETS also requires employers to do the following:
- Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee's vaccination status.
- Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
- Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
- Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
This measure is not technically a vaccine mandate, as businesses can also choose to make regular testing and mask wearing an option. OSHA plans to inspections at workplaces to verify compliance with the rule. A standard penalty may yield a $13,653 fine for a single violation.
The rule was officially published in the Federal Register today, November 5 which can be accessed here. The ETS is effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication. An OSHA press release with more information can be found here. Although this ETS is temporary, no sunset date for the ETS has been made available. For comparison, OSHA continues to monitor and assess the need for changes to a similar healthcare ETS (June 2021) each month.
Please contact Will Lusk NTTC’s Manager of Education & Government Relations for additional information. Thank you in advance for your support as NTTC continues its work on this important development.