Many logistics companies avoid Covid-19 vaccine requirements amid debate over US mandate – Community News
Covid-19

Many logistics companies avoid Covid-19 vaccine requirements amid debate over US mandate

Freight forwarders are cautiously circumventing a Covid-19 vaccine requirement as trade groups fight the federal mandate in court.

Companies including United Parcel Service Inc.,

Amazon.com Inc.

and others who generally manage warehouse workers, truck drivers and other workers across logistics networks do not require workers outside of some office workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Many companies say they encourage their staff to get vaccinated, while mandating protective measures in the workplace.

The federal mandate, expected to take effect Jan. 4, exempts workers who are exclusively away from home and do not report to a workplace where they interact with others. So it may be that many truck drivers are left out, but not the office and warehouse workers who help move goods from factories to shops and homes.

That truck driver exemption is “still not a total relief because we have a lot of mechanics, we have a lot of warehouse people,” said Nick Hobbs, Chief Operating Officer of JB Hunt Transport Services Inc. at a conference hosted by financial services firm Robert W Baird & Co. on Tuesday. “It will still cause a lot of disruption if that vaccine mandate continues.”

It in Lowell, Ark. The well-established transportation and logistics company has prepared a software program for employees to upload their vaccination status or to be informed that they need to take tests on a weekly basis, Mr Hobbs said. But JB Hunt is counting on a federal appeals court that has temporarily blocked the Biden government’s mandate to do so permanently, he said.

The American Trucking Associations, which represent major carriers, and several of its state affiliates said Tuesday they will file a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and urge that court to block the mandate. The National Retail Federation, which represents major retailers, and other business trade associations joined the lawsuit.

The court is the one who last week issued a temporary suspension blocking the enforcement of Biden’s government rule.

The ATA said in a statement it encourages workers to get vaccinated, but the rule “puts employers in an untenable position to force employees to choose between work and their personal medical decisions.”

Freight forwarding and logistics companies, which have been active during the pandemic, have various programs related to masking and social distancing, but have generally not required workers to be vaccinated.

UPS, the largest employer in the transportation industry with more than half a million employees, requires employees returning from work remotely to the office to be vaccinated. But it does not mandate distribution centers and the thousands of drivers who work in facilities that have followed masks and other guidelines during the pandemic.

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

Amazon, which has about a million employees in the U.S. and large numbers in its sprawling network of fulfillment centers, told warehouse workers they could drop their masks as of Nov. 2 if they’re fully vaccinated, unless federal, state, or local laws dictate otherwise. .

The company has not mandated that workers be vaccinated and allowed them mask-less earlier this year before that requirement was revived in August as the highly transmissible Delta variant spread.

Ryder System Inc.,

which provides outsourced transportation and warehousing services to retailers and manufacturers is encouraging but does not require its employees to be vaccinated, Frank Lopez, Ryder’s chief human resources officer, said in an emailed statement. “Since the initial announcement of the vaccines, it has been Ryder’s intention not to require workers to be vaccinated,” said Mr. Lopez.

The company requires staffers who work with outside companies to follow customer requirements when working with those customers, a Ryder spokeswoman said.

Some employees of Penske Logistics Inc. making deliveries to hospitals had to be vaccinated to meet hospital mandates, but the in Reading, Pa. established logistics provider does not require its employees to receive vaccines more generally, a spokesman said. “We plan to offer employees the opportunity to be vaccinated or meet weekly tests,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The company offers incentives such as AirPods, travel bags and wireless speakers to employees who get vaccinated, the spokesperson said.

Several logistics and freight companies said their lawyers are studying the nearly 500 pages of guidelines released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Nov. 4 to determine which workers could be exempted from the mandate, as the rules have now been written.

There are waivers for outdoor workers and lone workers that can apply to thousands of workers, including truck drivers who drive alone in their cab and do not interact with workers as part of their runs.

write to Lydia O’Neal at [email protected]

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