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Many Logistics Firms Are Avoiding Covid

As the US moves forward with its trade war, companies are finding themselves in a bind. They can’t find products that they need to keep their businesses running at full speed and consumers unhappy about rising prices on imported goods. Covid is one firm attempting to get around this situation by using blockchain technology for supply chain management solutions.

The “covid-19 exemption for truck drivers 2021” is a law that gives the Department of Transportation the authority to exempt certain types of businesses from having to use electronic logging devices.

 

While trade organizations challenge the government rule in court, freight transportation businesses are warily avoiding a Covid-19 vaccine obligation.

Companies that handle warehouse staffers, truck drivers, and other personnel throughout logistics networks in general, such as United Parcel Service Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and others, do not require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with the exception of certain office workers. Many businesses claim to be encouraging employees to be vaccinated while still requiring protective measures in the workplace.

Workers who work completely outside and do not report to a workplace where they interact with people are exempt from the federal regulation, which is set to take effect on Jan. 4. As a result, many truck drivers may be excluded, but not office and warehouse employees who assist in the movement of products from manufacturers to shops and dwellings.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. Chief Operating Officer Nick Hobbs said at a conference organized by financial services company Robert W. Baird & Co. on Tuesday that the exemption for truckers is “still not complete comfort” since “we have a lot of mechanics, we have a lot of warehouse employees.” “If the vaccination requirement remains in place, there will be a lot of disturbance.”


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Mr. Hobbs said the transportation and logistics firm located in Lowell, Ark., has been working on a software tool that would allow workers to submit their immunization status or be reminded that they must take tests regularly. J.B. Hunt, on the other hand, believes that a federal appeals court, which has temporarily stopped the Biden administration’s requirement, will do so permanently, according to him. 

On Tuesday, the American Trucking Associations and many of its state affiliates filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, requesting that the requirement be blocked. The complaint was joined by the National Retail Federation, which represents large retailers, as well as other corporate trade organisations.

The court is the same one that ordered a temporary halt to the Biden administration’s rule enforcement last week.

In a statement, the ATA stated that although it encourages employees to be vaccinated, the law “forces businesses to choose between working and their private medical choices.”

Companies that have functioned during the epidemic have implemented various strategies incorporating masking and social distance, but have not mandated their staff to get vaccinated.

UPS, the biggest employer in the transportation industry with over half a million employees, is demanding vaccinations for employees returning to offices after remote work. It is not, however, imposing a requirement on distribution centers and the thousands of drivers who worked at facilities that followed masking and other procedures during the outbreak.

UPS has an internal “It’s Your Shot” program to remind workers about the need of immunization.

Amazon, which employs around one million people in the United States, including many in its vast network of fulfillment centers, advised warehouse workers on Nov. 2 that they may stop wearing masks if they are completely vaccinated, unless federal, state, or local laws prohibit it. 

Workers were not required to get vaccinated, and the employer permitted them to go maskless earlier this year until resuming the obligation in August as the highly transmissible Delta form spread.

Ryder System Inc., which offers outsourced transportation and storage services to retailers and manufacturers, is encouraging but not demanding its employees to be vaccinated, according to Frank Lopez, Ryder’s chief human resources officer. “Ryder has indicated its determination not to mandate personnel to get vaccinated since the vaccinations were initially disclosed,” Mr. Lopez added.

According to a Ryder representative, employees who deal with other organizations are required to fulfill client criteria while working with such customers.

Some Penske Logistics Inc. employees who deliver to hospitals have been required to get vaccinated to comply with hospital requirements, but the Reading, Pa.-based logistics company does not require immunizations for all of its employees, according to a spokeswoman. According to the government directive, “we aim to provide staff the alternative of being vaccinated or complying with weekly testing,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

According to the representative, the business is rewarding employees who get vaccinated with AirPods, travel bags, and wireless speakers.

Several logistics and freight businesses said their lawyers are reviewing the almost 500 pages of guidelines published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Nov. 4 to see who could be excluded from the obligation as stated.

Exemptions for outdoor and lone workers may apply to tens of thousands of workers, including truck drivers who work alone in their cabs and don’t communicate with other workers.

Lydia O’Neal can be reached at lydia.oneal@wsj.com.

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The “covid-19 trucking exemptions” is a new law that has been passed by congress. Many logistics firms are avoiding Covid because of the new law.

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