OTTAWA – Trucking companies and manufacturers say new Covid-19 vaccine mandates that come into effect at the US-Canada border could disrupt an already fragile logistics network.
The two countries have allowed trade to cross their borders unhindered since the start of the pandemic. Tourist access to the land border was prohibited until the end of last year. But in November, both the US and Canada said they would have to vaccinate truck drivers to enter their respective countries.
Canada’s rules come into effect on Saturday, when Canada will ban American and other foreign truck drivers from entering the country unless they are fully vaccinated. Canada requires unvaccinated Canadian drivers to show a negative Covid-19 molecular test taken 72 hours prior to reaching the border before being admitted. Those drivers will also be quarantined for 14 days, which industry groups say will be detrimental to fleets that are already understaffed.
The US has said Canadian truck drivers without two injections of an authorized Covid-19 vaccine would be banned from January 22. In the absence of a bilateral solution, trucking and manufacturing trade groups are warning of turmoil in the supply chain that could lead to further price hikes and a potential shortage of critical goods such as food.
According to US trade data, mutual trade in trade goods between the US and Canada totaled more than $600 billion in 2019. About 80% of those goods are transported by trucks, Canadian exporters and the trucking industry estimate.
In a separate development, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Covid-19 rules for vaccines or testing of Covid-19 for major private employers, which U.S. truck drivers and some industry groups have said could deepen the turmoil in domestic supply chains. The decision does not affect the upcoming border restrictions.
“It’s a relief,” said Eric Fuller, chief executive of US Xpress Enterprises Inc., a major transportation company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “As much as I would like everyone to be vaccinated, this mandate would cause a lot of headaches for many companies.”
The American Trucking Associations, an industry group, is urging leaders in Ottawa and Washington to rethink cross-border mandates “so we can avoid further economic disruptions,” said Bob Costello, the group’s chief economist and senior vice president of international trade policy. . and cross-border operations.
Professional drivers spend much of their time alone and have lower infection and absenteeism rates than the general public, Costello said. “We believe these mandates will only serve to push drivers out of industry or away from these routes, further putting pressure on the supply chain between the US and our largest trading partner.”
A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the government in Canada issued a statement late Thursday afternoon reiterating that the vaccine mandate targeting truck drivers remained in effect. A statement said information previously provided to Reuters and the news agency The Canadian Press indicating that Ottawa partially reversed some of the rules that applied to Canadian truck drivers “was incorrectly provided.” Late Wednesday night, the two news agencies had reported that Canada would roll back some of the proposed rules.
The statement, written jointly by the Ministers of Health, Public Safety and Transport, said the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic would prioritize the health and safety of Canadians. Border measures could be lifted or adjusted depending on the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, the statement said.
Lance Dixon, senior vice president of Omaha, Neb.-based Werner Enterprises Inc.’s Mexico, Canada and temperature-controlled divisions, said the truckload carrier anticipates “more delays at the border due to freight bottlenecks as agents verify drivers’ vaccine status. , officials train those who are unprepared, and drivers are getting used to this new procedure.”
More than 80% of the company’s cross-border fleet is vaccinated and partner carriers are fully vaccinated, Mr Dixon said.
Stephen Laskowsi, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said a survey of Canadian truck drivers suggested “at least” 10% of the country’s 120,000 truck drivers had not been vaccinated. “We are already short truck drivers in Canada,” he said, citing data from Statistics Canada that showed there were 23,000 job openings in the sector.
Difficulty hiring and retaining truck drivers on both sides of the border have contributed to supply chain disruptions that have weighed on economic activity in North America and globally. “If you put in this vaccine mandate, that part of the problem will get bigger,” Mr Laskowski said.
Dennis Darby, chairman of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, a lobbying group, warned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a Jan. 11 letter against implementing the vaccine mandate for Canadian and American truck drivers at the border.
“Without adequate trucking services, manufacturers would not be able to maintain their current supply chains and production across the country will stop or slow down,” he said.
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