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Canada and U.S. resist efforts to drop vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers.

Semi trucks drive along Interstate 70 near Booneville, Missouri on Nov. 1, 2011. KOMUnews/Anna Burkart. CC SA 2.0.
Semi trucks drive along Interstate 70 near Booneville, Missouri on Nov. 1, 2011. KOMUnews/Anna Burkart. CC SA 2.0.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States.

According to CTV News Canada, truckers entering Canada from the United States must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 beginning on Saturday, January 15.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates this move could force some 16,000 cross-border truck drivers or 10 percent off the roads. The government estimates 5 percent of drivers will be impacted, according to a government source.

This is a turn-around for the Canadian government, which allowed truckers to freely cross the border for 20 months when it was closed to all but essential travel. “We don’t anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians,” the CTV News source said.

The Trudeau government has championed a strict inoculation policy for civil servants and federally regulated workers, and this new mandate comes as the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus shows no sign of slowing down.

Canada may open border to Americans by mid-August if fully vaccinated
Rainbow Bridge Canadian Border Crossing Image – Jeff Hitchcock from Seattle, WA CC SA 2.0

Conservative leader wants Trudeau to reconsider

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole wants the government to reconsider its Jan. 15 deadline for cross-border truck drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID if they want to keep their jobs, reports iPolitics.

In order to enter Canada, truck drivers and other essential-service providers, including emergency workers, must show proof of being fully vaccinated, and also are required to upload their proof of vaccination in the ArriveCAN phone app.

Of course, Transport Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canada Border Services Agency are still deciding how to enforce the rules.

“We will be short tens of thousands of truckers if the government doesn’t very quickly address this issue,” O’Toole said Thursday. “That doesn’t mean I don’t think people shouldn’t be vaccinated,” he qualified. “It means we have to deal with the reality (that prices will) skyrocket for groceries, for everything, (if) tens of thousands of truckers are unemployed.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) says it is preparing for the vaccine mandate, and expressed concern over the number of truckers quitting because of the requirement.

“There are substantial reports of higher-than-normal turnover, and others declaring their intention to leave the industry or seek employment in the provincially regulated sector,” CTA president Stephen Laskwoski wrote in a statement.

“The industry is expecting a loss of 12,000 to 16,000 (10 to 15 percent), cross-border commercial drivers if the mandate takes effect this month.”

Heavy load: supply chain woes strain US trucking
Truck driver Desi Wade is in his element coaching junior drivers, bantering with warehouse administrators and hosting fellow truckers on virtual meetings from his smartphone headset – Copyright AFP Nhac NGUYEN

Calls for the United States to lift its vaccine requirement

At the same time in the United States, close to a dozen Republican senators are calling on President Joe Biden to lift the vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the Canadian border, contending the policy will disrupt trade between the U.S. and Canada, according to The Hill.

The Biden administration announced in November that it would require all essential foreign travelers in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 22, and this rule applies to cross-border truckers.

However, Senate Republicans are asking the president to create a carveout in the administration’s impending policy.

“We write to share our concerns with the coming vaccine mandate for essential workers at the U.S.-Canada border, which will include truck drivers,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden dated Dec. 10.

“Trucking is the largest mode of surface trade with Canada; every day, there are approximately 14,000 total truck entries along the U.S.-Canada border hauling more than $846 million of goods. Any disruptions to the continuity of U.S.-Canada trade would likely have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond our shared border,” they added.

The senators basically expressed the same concerns their Canadian counterparts expressed, fearing the policy will exacerbate existing problems involving foreign networks and the supply chain, and that it could worsen inflation and cause prices to rise higher than they currently are.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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