Mentioning COVID-19 vaccine mandates in trucking industry circles may cause some wincing. Not because of the needle, either.
It’s taking away personal rights, many contend.
For now, President Joe Biden’s nationwide vaccine mandate is mired down in the courts. A federal judge on December 8 blocked it from being enforced for employees of federal contractors, the latest in a string of victories for Republican-led states pushing back against Biden’s pandemic policies.
Millions of health care workers across the U.S. were supposed to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 under a mandate issued by the Biden administration.
Thanks to legal challenges, they won’t have to worry about it, at least for now.
Same goes for a January 4 deadline set by the administration for businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.
In early November, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, the Mississippi Trucking Association and the Texas Trucking Association, sued the Biden administration over the mandate.
“We told the administration that this mandate, given the nature of our industry and makeup of our workforce, could have devastating impacts on the supply chain and the economy and they have, unfortunately, chosen to move forward despite those warnings,” said ATA President Chris Spear.
“So we are now, regrettably, forced to seek to have this mandate overturned in court.”
In a November, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said that truckers should be exempt from the mandate.
“If you’re a truck driver and you’re outside, you’re in a cab driving by yourself, this doesn’t impact you. If you’re a worker outside working in the area, this doesn’t impact you,” Walsh told Philadelphia television station WPVI.
Whether Walsh’s statement means that truckers are exempt remains unclear. He hasn’t addressed the issue since.
More than four-fifths of adults nationwide already have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But Biden contends his various workforce vaccine mandates are an important step in curtailing the virus, which has killed more than 780,000 people in the U.S.
Opponents have taken a three-tiered approach to challenging Biden’s requirements. In lawsuits, they contend the vaccine mandates were imposed without proper public comment, were not authorized by Congress and infringe on states’ rights to regulate public health matters.
“The reasoning across the cases is basically the same, which is that these statutes don’t give the president or the agency in question the authority to issue the mandates,” said Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
As for truckers, many are outspoken on the issue.
A long-haul trucker who asked only to be identified as Steve out of fear his company would retaliate against him said the mandates amount to ending freedom in America.
“It’s my body, it should be my choice,” Steve said. “I don’t know why the government thinks they can tell me what I can and cannot put into my own body. It’s just not right.”
Some other truckers have more moderate views.
Sandra Jenkins, who works for a small Arkansas trucking company, said she has no problem getting the vaccine.
“I am all for vaccinations, but I do think the mandate may be going a little too far,” she said. “I mean, I get it. We need to stop this virus, but I can see why the mandates upset so many people.”
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.