ATA joins lawsuit over Biden's vaccine mandate

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The American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, the Mississippi Trucking Association and the Texas Trucking Association on Tuesday, led a number of supply chain groups in suing the Biden administration over its employer-based COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said while his agency in general supports vaccinations against COVID-19, "we believe that the Biden Administration has overstepped its statutory authority in issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard.

"This standard arbitrarily picks winners and losers and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed," he said.

ATA was joined by a number of other industry organizations, including the Truckload Carriers Association, in warning the administration that the mandate, given the nature of the industry and makeup of its workforce, "could have devastating impacts on the supply chain and the economy and they have, unfortunately, chosen to move forward despite those warnings,” Spear said. “So we are now, regrettably, forced to seek to have this mandate overturned in court.”

ATA and its state partners filed their challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where they were joined in the suit by the Food Marketing Institute, the International Warehouse Logistics Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Nov. 6, citing “grave statutory and constitutional issues," halted the vaccine mandate with an emergency motion to temporarily stay the rule’s enforcement pending expedited judicial review. States have also filed lawsuits in the Sixth, Eighth and Eleventh Circuit appeals courts challenging the mandate. 

ATA is asking the court to stay implementation of the mandate "because we believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not satisfy the statutory requirements for issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard instead of going through the proper rulemaking process,” said Nicholas Geale, ATA vice president of workforce policy. “A stay pending full review is essential to ensure our members can continue to keep the supply chain moving without the enormous disruptions this unlawful ETS will cause the trucking industry and our nation’s consumers – including the 80% percent of American communities that depend exclusively on trucks for their needs.” 

There is some ambiguity regarding whether or not truck drivers are covered in the mandate itself, leading Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to attempt to clarify.

“If you're a truck driver and you're outside, you're in a cab driving by yourself, this doesn't impact you," he said. "If you're a worker outside working in the area, this doesn't impact you.”

However, there is still a grey area around what happens when that truck driver steps out of the cab and into a shipper/receiver facility or inside a terminal.