CDC releases mask requirement for surface transportation workers

On January 29, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order that requires conveyance operators and passengers to use their best efforts to wear face masks when boarding, disembarking, and traveling. 

According to the U.S. DOT, best efforts may include:

  • Boarding and allowing entry to only those persons who wear masks;
  • Instructing persons that Federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and in the transportation hub and failure to comply constitutes a violation of Federal law;
  • Monitoring persons onboard conveyances and in facilities for anyone who is not wearing a mask and seeking compliance from such persons;
  • At the earliest opportunity, disembarking any person who refuses to comply; and 
  • Providing persons with prominent and adequate notice to facilitate awareness and compliance of the requirement to wear a mask, with best practices including, if feasible, advance notifications on digital platforms, such as on apps, websites, or email; posted signage in multiple languages with illustrations; printing the requirement on tickets; and other methods as appropriate.

The CDC Order was issued in an effort to implement President Joe Biden’s executive order, “Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel.”

According to the order, a “conveyance” includes aircrafts, trains, road vehicles (including rideshares), vessels, or other means of transport including military transports.

Additionally, transportation hub operators must require people to wear a mask when entering or on the premises. A “transportation hub” includes airports, bus terminals, marinas, seaports, other ports, subways stations, terminals, train stations, U.S. port of entry, or any other location that provides transportation. 

Folks wearing masks should also cover both their mouth and nose when waiting, boarding, traveling on, or disembarking public conveyances.

The CDC has also listed a few exemptions, which include:

  • While eating, drinking, or taking medication, for brief periods; 
  • While communicating with a person who is hearing impaired when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication;
  • If unconscious (for reasons other than sleeping), incapacitated, unable to be awakened, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance; or
  • When necessary to temporarily remove the mask to verify one’s identity, such as when asked to do so by a ticket or gate agent or any law enforcement official.

The order went into effect on February 1 and is set to remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

So, how will this affect truckers specifically? 

While truckers should apply best practices and wear a mask when they’re around others on the job, there is nothing in the rules that says truckers must wear masks while traveling in their vehicle. 

According to Land Line Magazine, “truck drivers are specifically exempted ‘if the driver is the sole occupant of the vehicle or truck.”

However, truckers will need to abide by the order when picking up or dropping off freight in “transportation hubs,” such as airports, seaports, or U.S. ports of entry.

Truckers will also need to follow the order when on federal land, as masks are also required when entering buildings/land under executive branch control.

In addition, truckers should be aware of any additional local mask mandates, as they may differ throughout localities. 

Overall, truckers will not be greatly affected by the CDC’s order, except for some very specific cases.