Trucker vaccine messaging led to ‘mass confusion’: leader

Industry experts are expressing concerns that this week’s confusion over the mandate of a new COVID-19 vaccine for truck drivers may leave some drivers, who have been under the impression they will be exempted, stranded if they are already on their way.

Mike Milian, president of the Canadian Council on Private Cars, told CTV News in an emailed statement that the group is calling for a temporary exemption for unvaccinated truck drivers who were dispatched earlier this week after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said they would be exempted. of having to quarantine or provide evidence of a negative molecular test at the border.

“With the news circulating on the 13th, and no clarification or correction in the messages… many carriers then sent some unvaccinated drivers to the United States to cover the loads that had to be delivered,” Milian said in the statement.

He said the trucking industry had not been clarified about the mandate until the federal government announced Thursday that unvaccinated Canadians would not be exempt from the new federal truck driver vaccine mandate that takes effect Saturday.

In a joint statement, Canada’s Ministers of Transportation, Public Health and Safety said Canada’s primary policy is to require truck drivers coming into Canada from the United States to be fully vaccinated or face polymerase chain reaction testing and quarantine requirements.

Although the Canada Border Services Agency told reporters on Wednesday that unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers arriving at the border “will remain exempt” from testing or quarantine requirements, the government says information provided by the spokesperson was incorrect.

Milian says that “all this flip-flopping” in the messages has created “mass confusion” across the trucking industry.

“If the letter submitted late Wednesday was in error, why did it take officials more than 16 hours to issue a statement correcting the error?” He said in the statement. “The 16-hour period of silence has thrown the lives of many drivers into turmoil and will leave some forced to self-quarantine at home for 14 days as a result of the wrong message from government officials.”

As it stands, and as was initially the case before this week’s confusion, unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers will have to “meet pre-entry, arrival and day eight test requirements, as well as quarantine requirements,” as they cannot be denied entry into Canada.

Non-vaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers will be rejected if they cannot show evidence of vaccination or a valid medical contraindication for COVID-19 vaccines.

In order to qualify as a fully vaccinated foreign national, non-Canadian truck drivers are required to complete their authorized vaccination series at least 14 days prior to entering the country and provide the required information through the ArriveCAN app.

The US has planned a similar mandate to come into effect for any driver crossing into the states from January 22.

Supply Chain Concerns

Milian earlier told CTV News Thursday that it’s important to remember that truck drivers are delivering needed supplies amid the pandemic, such as medical gases to hospitals, COVID-19 vaccines, food and fuel, which could have disastrous effects if they are stopped.

“We already have a faulty supply chain, and if we damage it, we will see a shortage of supplies that we need for our health and safety,” Milian warned.

Stephen Laszkowski, president of the Canadian Truck Alliance (CTA), told CTV Your Morning that truck drivers’ demand for a new COVID-19 vaccine will “certainly have a negative impact” on the supply chain, causing delays for goods to reach their destinations.

“There is not a single aspect of the supply chain that will not be affected by this measure,” Laszkowski said Friday.

According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association (CME), the trucking industry moves nearly 80 percent of the $648 billion annually in trade between Canada and the United States.

Laskowski said some sectors will be hardest hit than others, based on their ability to secure freight transportation with a truck driver that meets new vaccine requirements.

“Certain parts of our supply chain will be more exposed to that based on their ability to secure the movement of goods. So the general trend … is turbulence in certain sectors,” he said.

The CTA reports that roughly 10 to 15 percent of drivers in the industry are not immune. Laszkowski says the mandate will take an estimated 12,000 Canadian truck drivers and thousands more from the United States out of cross-border shipping routes.

He noted that this would be a sharp reduction in the number of workers in an industry already facing a labor shortage.

“When these people leave the market, there are no backups, these trucks are sitting,” Laszkowski said. “Unlike other sectors where we can have people fill the period or fill it in temporarily, we can’t, so we’ll feel that right away.”

Given how much of Canada’s imports of agri-food comes to Canada by truck, Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Laboratory at Dalhousie University, said the authorization would be “the first public health measure that could disrupt trade between Canada and the United States since the start of the pandemic.” .

Industry experts on the other side of the border also expressed concerns.

In a statement Thursday, Bob Costello, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of American Truck Associations (ATA) urged “leaders in Ottawa and Washington to reconsider these mandates so we can avoid any further economic disruption.”

Laskowski noted that the trucking industry is not opposed to mandating a vaccine, but has been lobbying the federal government to work with supply chains to implement the requirement on a “less disruptive” date of January 15.

“We are very supportive of the use of vaccines. They are the best tool in the toolbox, but the truth is that the trucking industry is a reflection of Canadian society,” he said.

“Our industry is not immune to Canadians’ indecision about vaccines.”

When asked in French during a federal modeling update Friday whether the truck driver’s vaccine mandate would make a measurable difference to public health, Vice President of Public Health Dr. Howard Ngo said he believed increased vaccination coverage overall would help.

“Canadian truck drivers are part of our general population, part of our community, so I think it’s very important to encourage adoption of the vaccine for the entire population,” Ngo said. “I think in general, for any sector, we need to continue with all the measures and all the tools and education to increase the adoption of the vaccine, because the data so far has clearly shown that the vaccines [safe] effective in protecting people.

With files from Rachel Aiello from CTVNews.ca

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