Supreme Court rules against mandated vaccination, testing plan

Updated Jan 14, 2022
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The trucking industry's leading trade organizations today praised the Supreme Court's decision to not allow the Biden Administration's COVID vaccination mandate to take effect.

The court voted 6-3 Thursday to not allow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to be enforced. Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen dissented in Thursday’s opinion.

The ETS would have required workers at companies with 100 or more employees to either be fully vaccinated or tested for COVID at least weekly. 

The Supreme Court, in its opinion, said the Secretary of Labor lacked the authority to issue such a mandate, even through the OSH Act’s emergency temporary standard exemption.

Read the court's entire ruling here.

The American Trucking Association, which argued the case before the court, praised the ruling. A statement from President and CEO Chris Spear, the association said:

“Today, ATA has won a tremendous victory on behalf of the trucking industry and workers and employers everywhere. Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court validates our claim that OSHA far overstepped its authority in issuing an emergency temporary standard that would interfere with individuals’ private health care decisions.

“Trucking has been on the front lines throughout the pandemic – delivering PPE, medical supplies, food, clothing, fuel, and even the vaccines themselves. Thanks to this ruling, our industry will continue to deliver critical goods, as our nation recovers from the pandemic and we move our economy forward.”

The Truckload Carriers Association also weighed in on the court's ruling. In an email from Vice President for Government Affairs David Heller, the association said:

"Today, the Supreme Court ruled to reimpose the emergency stay on the Biden Administration’s misguided (ETS) to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for workers at companies with over 100 employees or for those companies to implement a weekly testing regime. This is a victory for the trucking industry as TCA, ATA, and many other partners incessantly voiced our concerns about the wide-reaching negative repercussions this mandate would have. 

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"We applaud the Court for moving quickly on this ruling as the deadline for compliance with the ETS was expected to go into effect earlier this week. It is imperative that the professional truck driver has the ability to safely, efficiently, and effectively deliver our nation’s freight so that our economy and this nation can continue to thrive."

Just before the court's ruling, OSHA had amended its FAQ to clarify that the majority of truck drivers would not be covered by the mandate.

In the new section posted in the FAQ, OSHA clarified that while there is no specific exemption for truck drivers, the ETS does “not apply to employees ’who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present’ or employees ‘who work exclusively outdoors.’”

The FAQ also says truck drivers who do not work in a team operation with another driver in the cab and who only encounter other individuals in outdoor environments are not included in the ETS.

Additionally, OSHA noted that minimal use of indoor facilities where other people may be present, such as using a multi-stall bathroom or entering an administrative office to drop off paperwork “does not preclude an employee from being covered by these exemptions, as long as time spent indoors is brief.”