Canada’s vaccine mandate for truckers in effect at border

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Industry experts and leaders remained concerned about the country’s supply chain as the federal government’s new vaccine mandate for truck drivers came into effect Saturday following days of confusion around the rules.

The mandate, which will require Canadian truckers to quarantine if unvaccinated when crossing the border into Canada, led to a number of questions and corrections around who would be exempt and how.

Now, with the vaccine requirement in place, concerns persist about the impact this mandate will have on the North American supply chain.

“I think you probably won’t see that movement … that the government’s looking for,” retail expert Bruce Winder told CTV News Channel on Saturday when asked if the effort will encourage truckers to get vaccinated.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has said between 10 and 15 per cent of cross-border commercial drivers could be lost if the mandate takes effect.

American Trucking Associations has argued that a misapplied mandate would fuel a surge in driver turnover and attrition, with fleets losing as much as 37 per cent of their current workforce.

There are 120,000 Canadians and 40,000 licensed drivers in the U.S. who operate cross-border, the Canadian Trucking Alliance says, while about 70 per cent of the $648 billion in trade between the two countries moves by truck.

Under the vaccine mandate, unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated non-Canadian truckers will be turned away if they aren’t able to show proof of vaccination or a valid medical exemption to the COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. plans to have a similar mandate come into effect for drivers crossing into the country starting Jan. 22.

“I know what the government’s trying to do with managing the hospital capacity, but they could find themselves with a very tough situation if Canadians rise up with inflation and food insecurity, or major manufacturers slow down, lay off people,” Winder said.

The mandate throws a “major wrench” in the Canadian and North American supply chains, he added, with grocers, food producers, the auto parts industry and building materials among the sectors expected to be most affected.

“I really hope that we’re not at the stage where you see food insecurity, where you’re actually going to grocery stores and there’s nothing on the shelf,” Winder said.

“That could be the worst-case scenario.”

Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that there were as many 23,000 vacancies at the end of the third quarter of 2021, with his group’s own studies showing that roughly 20 per cent of Canadian truck drivers operating across the border are unvaccinated.

Although the Canada Border Services Agency said earlier this week that unvaccinated Canadian truckers would be exempt from having to quarantine or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test when coming back, the federal government later corrected this and said they would still need to quarantine upon their return.

Millian had hoped unvaccinated Canadian truckers, who were dispatched after the CBSA’s announcement, would be granted an exemption from the quarantine rules.

But after speaking with government officials on Friday, Millian told CTV’s Power Play that the request had been denied.

However, Canadian drivers will still be allowed to finish their deliveries before heading into quarantine.

“They bring our food in, our heating fuels and our groceries, everything that we need, our medical supplies,” Millian said.

“If we remove a fifth of that workforce, we’re going to see shortages on shelves and we’re going to see inflation of prices, because the cost to bring this stuff here is going to go up.”

With files from CTVNews.ca

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