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Trucking industry concerned new vaccination mandate will increase driver shortage

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BATON ROUGE - Louisiana trucking industry officials worry the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees could exacerbate the ongoing driver shortage.

Details of the federal mandate, first announced in September, were released Thursday. Employees of private businesses with 100 or more workers must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. or face weekly virus testing.

"Should an employer be required to abide by the [emergency temporary standard], and they fail to meet the requirements of it, OSHA could fine them up to $14,000 per incident," Baton Rouge attorney Ben O'Connor said.

Beyond full-time employees, businesses will need to count other workers in their overall employment number when determining if they meet the 100-employee benchmark.

"Employees that are part-time," O'Connor said. "Employees that are working from home. Employees that are temporary or seasonal."

Even at businesses with at least 100 workers, some employees won't be bound by the vaccination or testing requirement.

"For instance, employees that are working from home are not required [to follow the mandate,] O'Connor said. "Employees that are working exclusively outdoors are not required to abide by this, in addition to employees that are working within a workplace where there is no one else present."

Those exemptions are leading some sectors, like the trucking industry, which is included in the mandate, to seek clarity.

"A trucker that's in his cab for a large majority of his time, driving over the road, could be considered a person that doesn't have key contact with other employees," Renee Amar, the executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, said. "I think we need clarity on that piece before we're willing to not oppose this mandate."

The nationwide driver shortage, Amar says, started before the pandemic but grew over time. Right now, the industry is roughly 80,000 drivers short. She fears the mandate will make the problem worse.

"Roughly, only about 50% of truckers[nationwide] have been vaccinated at this point," Amar said. "Of the other 50% that have not been vaccinated, 35% of those are willing to walk away from their job because of this mandate."

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