Trucking experts react to vaccine mandate

Industry experts are warning that the federal government’s mandate for a new COVID-19 vaccine to truck drivers will affect the country’s supply chain and impede the flow of goods across borders, leading to potential shortages of some products.

Stephen Laszkowski, president of the Canadian Truck Alliance (CTA), told CTV Your Morning that the new requirement would “certainly have a negative impact” on the supply chain, causing delays in goods arriving at 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 federal government said Thursday that unvaccinated Canadians will not be exempted from the new federal truck driver’s 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.

As it stands, unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers will have to “meet pre-entry, arrival and day eight pre-test requirements, as well as quarantine requirements,” as they cannot be denied entry to 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.

The Canadian Truck Alliance 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.”

Mike Milian, president of the Canadian Council on Motor Trucks, told CTV news Thursday that it’s important to remember that truck drivers are providing needed supplies amid the pandemic, such as medical gases to hospitals, COVID-19 vaccines, and food. And fuel, this can have disastrous effects if it is stopped.

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

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.”

With files from Rachel Aiello from CTVNews.ca

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