Officials warn vaccine mandates could exacerbate truck driver shortage

Federal vaccine mandates to be imposed on companies with more than 100 employees may exacerbate the truck driver shortage in the U.S., which could contribute to further supply chain delays, warned stakeholders from the US. industry to the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

Vaccination hesitancy is one of the main reasons drivers may not want to get needed vaccinations, said Jon Samson, executive director of the American Trucking Association. Samson said one of the reasons for the hesitancy against the COVID-19 vaccine in this industry is that truck drivers don’t feel the need to get vaccinated due to spending most of their work hours only on long trips.

“The trucking industry is not against vaccines, we are against supply chain inefficiency,” Samson told lawmakers at Wednesday’s committee hearing. “Many larger truck lines have drivers with questions about vaccines.”

The Biden administration published its vaccination mandate for companies on Thursday, setting a deadline for companies to comply with January 4. It is expected to cover 84 million people.

Samson said there were 80,000 truck driver jobs open in the U.S., warning that larger trucking companies fear losing a significant portion of their workforce, in part because some drivers may leave trucking companies. bigger for smaller ones or abandon the industry altogether.

One area where a shortage of truck drivers could contribute to supply chain problems is the distribution of agricultural products, which the committee’s lawmakers warned could eventually result in food not reaching store shelves. if the shortage continues.

Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee David scottDavid Albert Scott Bipartisan bill to change the broadband connectivity chessboard in rural America Democrats pressure Biden to step up the fight against domestic hunger Republicans focus opposition to tax increases on the change in capital gains PLUS (D-Ga.) He called the driver shortage “a tremendous challenge” for the agricultural supply chain.

“They hold the key to knowing whether or not we will have a food shortage,” Scott said. “We have no shortage of food, but the supply is in the hands of our truckers.”

While agricultural production has largely remained stable during the pandemic, the cost of transporting agricultural products has risen substantially, due in part to a shortage of drivers.

Jon Schwalls, CEO of Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable, a production and packaging company operating in the United States and Mexico, said his company’s outbound freight costs have increased by 40 percent since the start of the pandemic. .

“We are now in the middle of a supply chain crisis,” Schwalls told the committee. “Once unloaded, there are not enough conductors, warehouses and shipping containers to keep products moving to the intended customer.”

The shortage affects certain areas of the country more than others, according to a recent report by the US Department of Agriculture. report.

Truck availability in 18 of the 20 regions reported by the USDA is listed as a “shortage” or “mild shortage” in the report released this week. West Coast routes, including the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, are among the hardest hit, according to the report. Only two regions, Mississippi and the Mexico-South Texas junction, are listed as suitable. No region is listed as a surplus or mild surplus.

There is no easy way to explain the driver shortage, Samson said, but the Trucking Association hopes that greater flexibility and financial incentives will help the industry attract new drivers.

One possible explanation is that the industry misses the opportunity to recruit high school graduates, as commercial driver’s license holders must be 21 years of age to cross state lines. Other blue-collar jobs have historically offered more flexibility for similar salaries, Samson said.

“We are looking to hire younger drivers right now,” Samson said. “We are starting to see an increase in hourly wages and we still haven’t seen a lot of those workers come back.”

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