As of March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security classified truck drivers as essential to the nation’s infrastructure. Unfortunatley, this status does not appear to have given drivers priority in scheduling a vaccine.
While those over 65 years old and other essential workers deserve vaccines, so too do truck drivers who keep this country running. While some American professionals can work from home, when a driver “works from home,” that means their truck and the sleeper cab. Drivers continue to drive, and they deserve to stay safe from the coronavirus.
To address the issue, on January 27th, ATA, or American Trucking Association, and almost 50 state trucking associations contacted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to push for prioritization.
Reclassifying Truckers as Frontline Essential Workers
Truck drivers are currently slotted into the 1c group, also known as “other essential workers”. This category includes those in the food industry, USPS employees, and adults over 65, but it is unknown as to when the 1c group is to receive a vaccine.
This issue is largely dependant on local regulations and vaccine distribution rates. For example, truckers may be able to receive the vaccine as early as this month in Maryland, whereas other states may not move to phase 1c until May or later.
Because truck drivers travel through many states with varying levels of vaccination, the ATA has issued a request to reclassify truckers as part of the 1b group, which provides higher-risk people with the vaccine regardless of status or occupation.
With the additional risk of COVID-19 mutations that could make current vaccines invalid, it’s even more important for drivers who travel across teh country to get their vaccines early. By containing the variants, society can buy time while a novel vaccine is created to combat the specific mutations.
ATA Letter Addresses Valid Points
According to ATA, “In many ways, truckers are the linchpin of our nation’s entire frontline response, providing daily, direct and indispensable support to all essential workers”.
The ATA cited a study issued by the University of California, that “suggests truck drivers are among the population at greatest risk”.
The letter further outlines the fact that “Health care providers, first responders, corrections officers, manufacturers, grocery clerks and teachers all rely on trucks for the equipment and supplies needed to carry out their professional duties. Moreover, high-risk populations are now depending on the trucking workforce to deliver vaccine supplies to every corner of the country.”
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell quickly responded to the letter and acknowledged the situation, “We are now seeing international news, national news and local news about the challenges we are facing moving food, and I want to make sure our transportation infrastructure workers are prioritized to get those vaccines and we can continue to move product through the United States”.
Cantwell also stated plans are in the works to push for food haulers to receive a higher vaccination priority.