A closer look at the COVID vaccine and how it has impacted the trucking industry

May 3, 2021 Christina DeBusk

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, a large majority of the country shut down. Not the trucking industry. Grocery stores still needed food. Hospitals still needed medical supplies.

Other businesses continued to rely on truckers to get them their products and goods. What did all of this mean when it came time for the vaccine?

Initial vaccine rollout plans and where truck drivers stood

On January 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a categorized list of when each type of essential worker should receive the COVID vaccine. This phased plan, which was based on recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, placed transportation and logistics workers in the third category known as Phase 1c. Other individuals in Phase 1c were:

  • People between the ages of 65 and 74
  • People between the ages of 16 and 64 with a high-risk medical condition
  • All other essential workers not in Phases 1a or 1b (which included workers in the energy industry, housing and shelter workers, and financial services workers)

While this was the recommendation, each state could determine its own vaccine rollout schedule which may or may not have followed this basic guideline. Though, some researchers were concerned that public officials didn’t understand the importance that commercial truck drivers played, urging them to reconsider where they fell in this plan.

For instance, one researcher from the University of Houston published an article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, stating that “allocating vaccines to commercial truck drivers is a necessary step toward promoting justice”—especially because this was the very industry responsible for getting the vaccines to the local health agencies where they would be distributed to the rest of the population.

Less than two months later, President Biden eliminated the phased rollout and, in his statement on March 11, 2021, declared that every American would be eligible for the COVID vaccine by May 1, 2021. Although some states have met this schedule earlier, for trucker drivers, this still has presented two major challenges.

Vaccination challenges specific to truck drivers

First, unlike many other professions, when you drive a truck, you aren’t in one static location all of the time. This makes it more difficult to know where you’ll be on any given day, which also makes it harder to schedule both the first vaccine and the second, known as “the booster.”

Fortunately, many pharmacies are now able to give the vaccination, opening more options since these types of stores can be found on almost any street corner.

This leads to the second issue, which is getting into the parking lots of these types of businesses. When you are in a car, pickup, or SUV, this isn’t an issue. Yet, when you are in a big truck, this can be a feat in and of itself.

On February 25, 2021, the National Trade Association of Travel Plazas and Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) sent a letter to the CDC in the hopes of addressing both of these issues.

Specifically, it asked this agency to consider turning truck stops and travel plazas into mobile vaccine sites. This would open even more vaccine locations to truck drivers while also making it more convenient to get both shots.

Where does it stand now?

The only thing the trucking industry can count on for sure is that the situation with the COVID vaccine is fluid, constantly changing based on a variety of factors. These include the number of doses allocated to each local area, distribution location options, and more.

Certainly, there have been many challenges along the way, for not only the trucking industry but several other industries. As the vaccine rollout continues, hopefully, many will naturally resolve.

Want to learn more about trucking and COVID-19? Check out content library. 

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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