TAKING ON TOUGH SUBJECTS: A WORD ON VACCINE MANDATES AND DRIVER RETENTION
On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that all businesses employing more than 100 people must either require the Covid-19 vaccine, or a weekly negative Covid test. The vaccine will be obligatory for all federal employees, without an option to test out. Companies that don’t comply could be subjected to fines of up to $14,000.
In the time since then, several of our colleagues have come out with objections to the mandate. They’ve expressed a (very real) concern that requiring truck drivers to be vaccinated could cause some of them to quit the profession. This would exacerbate the driver shortage and shrink the candidate pool at a time when the trucking industry can’t afford to lose more people.
As a company that coaches trucking firms on driver retention, we understand this fear. We’re living in an odd period in history. The labor force participation rate has been hovering below 62% for more than a year while the number of available jobs surpassed 10 million over the summer. Meanwhile, freight demand isn’t going anywhere, and small parcel delivery season is just around the corner. Losing even a small percentage of truckers in this environment would feel like a nightmare come true.
Don’t panic. There’s a lot that you can do for your drivers at this pivotal moment. In fact, it’s our belief that you owe it to them to be a leader on this issue.
At the National Transportation Institute, we’re fans of vaccines, including the one for Covid. There are countless examples throughout history of vaccinations preventing illness and untimely deaths.
But we’re even more enthusiastic about employee engagement and communication.
There has been a LOT of confusion and fear disseminated throughout this pandemic. Without getting into the statistics, there’s simply too much incorrect information floating around. That means that, in this critical moment in history, you can do a big service to your drivers by making sure that they aren’t being subjected to bad messaging. Now is the time to educate and engage.
Given the climate around Covid information (and “information”), we might go as far as to say that there’s an imperative to engage your drivers, and make sure that they understand the ins and outs of vaccination. If ever there was a time to provide reputable information and sources on infectious disease, it would be now.
This brings us to one small caveat, and it is this: let’s not be jerks about it. Please be respectful of others, regardless of how their beliefs may differ from yours. Emotions are running high around this topic, and it is not the time to belittle anyone else. Some drivers have concerns or don’t want to be vaccinated. Right now, you have an opportunity to connect with them. Learn about their concerns. Treat them like responsible adults. Make sure they are learning about the vaccine from reputable sources, not social media.
As of publication, the mandate hasn’t been fully implemented yet. We’re still waiting on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to work out the kinks before it goes into full force. That means that now is the time to talk about vaccination policies with your employees. It’s a tricky subject to broach but educating and informing drivers early will be key to retaining your fleet.
If you want to talk to your drivers about the vaccine or the mandate, but aren’t sure how, we can help. Reach out to us today.