Editor's Note: John Schmeiser, CEO of the Western Equipment Dealers Assn., recently shared this letter with the organization's members and it is posted for RLD readers with permission. 

As more and more dealerships find themselves covered by executive orders issued by cities, counties, and states that require citizens to “shelter in place,” dealers will need to assess whether they qualify as “essential businesses,” “exempt businesses” or similar terms that allow their employees to travel and continue to report to work.  

For dealers in jurisdictions that qualify as essential or exempt businesses, we have prepared a “safe passage” letter for dealers to provide to their essential employees who will be asked to continue working in dealership facilities in locations that are covered by these orders. Most locales have stated they do not foresee aggressively enforcing these orders by pulling over vehicles or the like, but our concern is that enforcement may tighten up if the COVID-19 spread continues and businesses are too aggressive in how they conclude what is “essential.” 

As a result, we believe a best practice will be for dealers to give employees a short letter on your letterhead that explains they work for an essential business. This letter should be carried with them in their vehicle and it can serve to both give the employees comfort that they are permitted to report to work and hopefully provide them documentation needed to avoid issues in the unlikely event that they are stopped for some reason.  

It is important to remind dealers to stay on top of changes impacting their location. Most executive orders have allowed businesses to make the determination as to whether they are essential or exempt. However, as businesses have been aggressive in making this determination, we are starting to see governments issue additional guidance that restricts the definition of essential businesses. In Kansas, the government is moving toward a system where the business will have to verify that it qualifies for the essential business designation through the local government (additional communication will be forthcoming to Kansas dealers). As a result, this will continue to be a moving target even though virtually all orders we have reviewed to date should allow agricultural equipment dealers and construction equipment dealers to qualify as exempt businesses. We are seeing more variation with respect to outdoor power equipment dealers and some jurisdictions (notably Wisconsin) have issued additional guidance that effectively limits the ability of OPE dealers to operate.

The ”safe passage” letter is attached. It is intended as a general letter that provides basic information to support a dealership’s conclusion that it is an essential business based on the orders we have reviewed. As of today, New Mexico, Oklahoma (applies to any county with a confirmed COVID-19 case), Oregon and Washington have adopted statewide orders while multiple cities/counties in the following states have adopted orders:  Idaho, Kansas, Missouri and Texas.

If you have specific questions about an order applicable to you and/or whether any additional information is needed in a letter for your location(s), please contact our hotline at 800-762-5616.