About two months ago, we wrote a blog that talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic drove change within the trucking industry and how it impacted feedback. Tucked in the bottom of that blog, we mentioned that one topic of feedback that had begun to emerge was how/when/where things stand with truck drivers & the COVID-19 vaccine.
Needless to say, two months later, that’s still a hot topic. As more Americans gain access to the vaccine, drivers and companies alike wonder how to handle vaccination.
Let’s take a dive into where vaccination stands in the United States, as well as how trucking companies can handle the hows and whys of getting drivers vaccinated.
Since we last talked about this topic in mid-March, the vaccination process quickly accelerated. At that time, different areas of the country were prioritizing different groups of people for vaccination access. Some states were already vaccinating most adults, while others were still only offering access to those who were age 65 and older.
On the day our blog was published in March, the White House announced that all states, tribes, and territories should make all adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. Within a couple of weeks, that timeline had been pushed up, encouraging all states to reach that marker by April 19.
At this point, everyone in the United States age 16 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of where they’re based within the country. As of the beginning of May, nearly 30 percent of American adults have been vaccinated.
While a large part of the American population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, there are many people still confused or uncertain about how to get the vaccine.
Even though there are many organizations offering vaccination, there are also many different systems for locating a vaccine distribution site and obtaining an appointment. The issue of obtaining the vaccine is even more complex for truck drivers, who are in the unique scenario of being on the road for the majority of the time.
Because of that, truck driver feedback related to the vaccine generally expresses uncertainty around how to take off time to be vaccinated, as well as how to get a vaccine appointment or otherwise access the vaccine in the first place.
Trucking companies can play a role in helping drivers overcome those barriers.
“As far as the vaccine goes, there’s lots of confusion and concern from drivers about how to gain access to it or simply gain the permission to take the time to get it,” says Katie Love, Marketing Manager at WorkHound. “Even though more vaccine centers are opening up and appointments are open, drivers don’t know when and how they’ll be able to gain access — and they want carriers to help.”
In some cases, trucking companies have solved that issue by facilitating vaccination clinics on-site at their facilities. But even if your company doesn’t take that step, you can still help drivers get the information and guidance they need.
That may be as simple as pointing drivers toward tools that help locate available vaccine or vaccine appointments. It’s also important to ensure your drivers understand how to get time off to obtain their vaccine.
“We have seen carriers create a policy that helps drivers know exactly where they stand,” Love says. “Being explicit about a vaccine policy works well with helping the drivers know and understand what is needed. Be very firm and clear and confident about what the company is doing, rather than leaving it to drivers to ask the questions.”
Because post-vaccination side effects are fairly common, particularly after the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, it’s also important that your policy outline what to do if time off is needed after a vaccine dose.
“Companies can plan ahead with drivers in case they do have a reaction following their vaccination,” Love says. “Most of us have the ability to take the day off from an office job, but drivers really do not. Trucking companies can also find a way to make taking the day off accessible to drivers, in case they aren’t feeling well after their vaccine.”
While that may seem fairly inconsequential, it isn’t.
“Whether you call industry-wide driver turnover or a driver shortage, its impact is significant right now,” Love says. “Any measure that companies can implement to remind drivers how valuable they are will matter in the long run. One extra day to recover from the vaccine could be all the difference in a long-term partnership.”
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