Love’s joins companies incentivizing workers to get COVID vaccine

Editor’s Note: Updates 5th paragraph with Pilot Company statement

The Love’s Family of Companies is paying a $75 bonus to its 28,000 employees to get the COVID vaccine. The truck stop operators joins businesses offering paid time off to allow workers in close contact with customers to get inoculated.

Oklahoma City-based Love’s operates more than 500 truck stops and travel plazas in 41 states. They are deemed essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic because they serve truck drivers moving food, medical and other goods.

“A big element of our culture is taking care of our team members so we’re always thinking of new ways to do that,” Love’s President Shane Wharton said in a press release. “The incentive is another way of encouraging our employees to stay safe during the pandemic.”

The privately held company includes Love’s Truck Care and Speedco centers; alternative fuel provider Trillium; commodity trading company Musket; the Gemini trucking fleet, and other businesses.

Love’s competitor, the Pilot Company, said it encourages employees to get vaccinated. But is not offering an incentive. Pilot is the largest operator of travel centers in North America with more than 750 locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety, health and well-being of our team members and guests. As more information becomes available, Pilot Company will continue to proactively communicate with team members about COVID-19 protocols and the vaccine,” Paul Shore, Pilot chief people officer, said in a statement.

Travel Centers of America (NASDAQ: TA) did not immediately respond as to whether it is or would offer a vaccination incentive.

NATSO, the trade association for travel plazas, declined specific comment on Love’s program. But it has urged the Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize employees of essential businesses in the vaccine distribution chain. 

“Our employees, along with truck drivers, are part of the critical infrastructure workforce and should receive a vaccine,” NATSO spokeswoman Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman told FreightWaves. “Unfortunately, vaccine distribution priorities are being set at the state level and each state is handling it differently.”

Paid time off to vaccinate

A growing list of businesses offer paid time off for employees to receive the vaccination. 

The Aldi discount grocery chain is offering its hourly employees up to four hours of pay — two for each dose of the vaccine. Its salaried workers will receive flexible hours so they can be vaccinated. Aldi has more than 6,520 stores across 11 countries and employs more than 155,000 people.

The Kroger Co. is not mandating COVID vaccinations for its employees even as the Cincinnati-based grocery giant offers the shots to customers by appointment in some locations. Kroger has 2,800 stores and employs nearly 500,000 workers.

“At this time, we’re strongly encouraging our shoppers and associates to get vaccinated,” Tim Massa, Kroger’s senior vice president of human resources and labor relations, told The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Darden restaurant chain is making an offer similar to Aldi to employees at its outlets including Olive Garden, Capital Grille and Longhorn Steakhouse.

“While we will not require hourly team members to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, we strongly encourage you to consider getting vaccinated,” Gene Lee, chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, said in a message to employees.

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