Truckers Call for Prioritized Vaccine Access

By Al Muskewitz

After months of seemingly nothing but bad news on the COVID-19 front worldwide, it brought a ray of hope when news of the development of multiple vaccines to combat the virus came to light.

Since those reports surfaced, various groups have been lining up in hopes of being among the first to receive shots. Count the trucking industry among them.

Earlier this week, the American Trucking Associations sent letters to various government entities, including the White House and President-elect Joe Biden, reminding them of trucking’s essential status and asking that its workforce be included in prioritized access along with other essential workers.

“Our workforce represents a central and critical link in the nation’s supply chain and will play an essential role in the imminent COVID-19 vaccine distribution process,” ATA executive vice president for advocacy Bill Sullivan wrote. “As the trucking industry is called upon to deliver vaccines across the country, it is imperative that truck drivers have prioritized access to the vaccine the minimize the potential for supply chain delays and disruptions.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been coordinating with several companies to carry the vaccines from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and inoculation points. The FMCSA recently extended its declarations to support emergency transportation of vaccines and medical supplies related to COVID-19.

Several major carriers are reportedly deep into their vaccine distribution plans and many are building new cold storage facilities to meet the demand. Depending on the manufacturer, the vaccine must be shipped/stored at between minus-4 and minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit to be effective, making the refrigerated sector even more vital.

Federal officials have said 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses could be available by the end of the year.

Industry stakeholders have talked about hoping to be near the head of the line well before the ATA’s appeal.

Speaking at a wide-ranging Truckload Carriers Association virtual conference in mid-November, Geoff Topping, vice president of people and culture at Challenger Motor Freight, said “to be honest, we are an essential service … Of course, health care professionals need to be first, and I am hoping our industry is considered near the front of the line.”

Adam Lang, chief risk officer at Wisconsin-based Halvor Lines, another speaker in the conference, agreed.

“We are the ones bringing the goods, we are the ones bringing the materials, and I think it’s important as a whole,” he said. “I feel that with our industry organizations we can effectively lobby the government to make transportation and trucking one of the top priorities in receiving the vaccine for our central workers.”

Truck drivers were classified as essential workers at the outset of the pandemic. Trucking is the backbone of the domestic supply chain, with more than 80 percent of U.S. communities relying exclusively on trucks for their freight transportation needs.

“Drivers are indeed essential,” said Dave Heller, TCA’s vice president of government affairs. “They’re the front line of this pandemic, the tip of the spear when it comes to fighting this battle. Acknowledging this at the government level is a good thing for our industry.”

Al Muskewitz is Editor at Wright Media. He can be reached at

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