Will you get the COVID vaccine if your company requires it?

A recent FreightWaves online poll of truckers found that 65% of 1,120 respondents have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 but that nearly 73% of the holdouts would rather find a new employer than get the “jab.”

Jeremy Rewoldt, founder of the StopTheTires2020 Facebook group, told FreightWaves recently that his group of around 70,000 members largely opposes the push for government vaccine mandates.

“We don’t want the government to interfere and dictate what we have to inject into our bodies to keep our jobs,” Rewoldt told FreightWaves. “Everybody should have the choice to decide for themselves to get the jab, not the government.”

The poll results were released a day after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule that would mandate vaccines or weekly testing for workers at companies with 100 or more employees.

The FreightWaves team surveyed 1,121 truck drivers about the vaccine. Of that number, 728 stated they were already vaccinated, 108 drivers said they would get vaccinated if their companies required it. However, 285 drivers who were surveyed said they would quit if their companies required some sort of vaccine or COVID testing requirement. 

In early August, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods [NYSE:TSN], the nation’s largest meatpacker, announced that its 120,000-member U.S. workforce, including truck drivers, had to receive the COVID vaccine. Walmart Inc. [NYSE:WMT], headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, also announced its corporate employees had to be vaccinated, which spurred protests or slow rolls by some trucking groups upset with the vaccine rollout, but the events largely had no effect on the economy.

“I would rather find a new employer that won’t bend to the no-jab, no-job bulls— the government is trying to force on us,” one trucker, who didn’t want to be named, told FreightWaves. 

This could be a huge blow to large carriers that are struggling to find truck drivers to fill the seats of their cabs at a time when last-mile companies or local haulers are gobbling up drivers who used to haul LTL or long-haul freight.

The American Trucking Associations is urging its members to get vaccinated as the number of Delta variant cases among the unvaccinated continues to soar.

“As we see from the massive surge in COVID infections, those who haven’t chosen to get vaccinated are suffering major spikes in hospitalization and even death from the virus,” ATA spokesman Sean McNally told FreightWaves. “As cities, states and employers work through this complex issue, one thing isn’t complicated: Americans who get vaccinated are safer – as are their loved ones – than those who don’t get vaccinated. ATA encourages all Americans and all truckers to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”

However, the ATA called the Biden administration’s proposed vaccine mandate on employers with more than 100 employers “discriminatory.”

“If these mandates are designed to protect Americans, then why the discriminatory 100-employee threshold, picking winners and losers for both employees and employers,” the ATA said in a statement on Friday.

Truckers weigh in

One 40-year long-haul trucking veteran, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation by other drivers, says he doesn’t understand the big deal about getting the vaccine — or wearing a mask.

“Before the vaccine, I slept in my truck for months at a time, unable to see my family because I was afraid I would unknowingly have COVID and pass it on to my wife and kids because I was in multiple states on any given day,” the driver told FreightWaves.

“I’m vaccinated now. So are my kids who are old enough to get vaccinated,” the driver said. “All I know is trucking, so if I was in a position where I had to choose to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated, what would I do? I know how to make money at this — and money is good right now — so why would I want to give it all up?” 

With all of the pay raises and sign-on bonuses, one company driver, who is also vaccinated, told FreightWaves she is making more money than she has over the past 15 years. It’s still not enough when you factor in the amount of time she spends away from her family, she said, but she “earns a good living” and makes thousands more than what the minimum wage jobs pay at the local fast food restaurants or factories in her rural area.

“The same people who bitched about not getting paid enough to drive a truck [during COVID] are the same ones willing to give up their careers to do what?” the truck driver, who didn’t want to be named, told FreightWaves. “Are they going to work in a fast-food joint for minimum wage or live off of government money, which they criticized so many for doing during the pandemic in the first place, or what. Trucking’s all I’ve ever done.”

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This is part of FreightWaves’ AskWaves series. If you have a question for our editorial team to explore, click here. For more AskWaves articles, click here.

Click here for more articles by Clarissa Hawes.

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