AS the Biden Administration prepares to open land border points of entry to vaccinated travelers, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said in a press statement on Thursday that it is asking Washington and Ottawa to work with the industry to reexamine appropriate mandate timelines for cross border truck drivers while also developing a seamless, mutual system of identification for drivers to limit potential border delays when presenting their vaccination status at the border.
To avoid economic disaster to the North American supply chain, truck drivers – classified as essential workers – have been permitted to cross the border for work while it has been closed to non-essential traffic since March of 2020.
The Canadian and US economies move by truck. About 70% of the $648 billion in trade between the two countries moves by truck. In total, there are 120,000 Canadians who operate cross border and 40,000 US licensed drivers moving north-south trade.
The recent announcement by the US to open the Canada-US border to all traffic – essential and nonessential – will require proof of double vaccination for all travelers, including truck drivers. to enter the U.S.
CTA and the Canadian trucking industry strongly support the use of vaccines to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and is encouraging its drivers to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their family members, co-workers and customers, notwithstanding legitimate medical/religious exemptions. CTA is working with members of the industry and governments on strategies to increase the vaccination penetration rate among its workforce so that Canada and the US can fully recover economically and mitigate some of the supply chain service disruptions and delays being experienced globally.
Early last week, both the US President and the Canadian Deputy Prime Minister commented on the need to monitor the fragility of the North American supply chain and that it receives the support it needs to operate efficiently. CTA’s message reflects Washington’s public recognition that the supply chain faces severe challenges and any measures introduced should not compound the capacity pressures.
The good news is that many trucking companies from across Canada have double vaccination rates in the 85-90% range – well above the provincial averages. However, there are a significant number of carriers moving Canada-US trade that have lower vaccination rates, which are more reflective of the regional rates where their companies are located and their drivers are recruited.
Based on this wide range, CTA conservatively estimates that 20 percent of Canadian truck drivers crossing the border (22,000), and 40 percent of US truck drivers (16,000), would almost immediately exit the Canada-US trade system should the vaccination mandate take effect in January 2022. (CTA fully expects the same vaccination requirement for Canadian truck drivers travelling back into Canada would apply if the US mandate were implemented.) The removal of tens of thousands of cross-border truck drivers would also compound the domestic driver shortage problem. Research by Trucking HR Canada shows that currently, even before any vaccination mandates takes effect, nearly 20,000 job vacancies for truck drivers in Canada remain unfilled.
Since March 2020, CTA has been working with federal governments on both sides of the border to implement measures that keep the Canada-US supply chain moving while protecting essential service workers and all Canadians from the spread of COVID-19. This collaborative effort, along with the commitment by trucking management to introduce new health and safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 among its highly-isolated driver population, helped produce extremely low infection rates among drivers and their fleet operations. Because of these systems, the economy moved at a time when it needed to the most and the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in trucking was a resounding success.
The Canadian trucking industry fully understands that admissibility requirements are changing around the world. CTA is urging governments for a date-driven, practical implementation timeline that does not further disrupt a constrained supply chain and increase processing times of trucks at the border while also maintaining the need to keep Canadians and Americans safe.