Ever increasing vaccination mandates on essential workers – by both private businesses and governments alike – are causing severe shortages in an already depleted workforce.
This is especially true in the supply chain, where shortages in workers are prevalent in marine, air, rail, and of course, truck drivers. On Oct. 30 the federal government’s first phase of its mandatory vaccination program for federally regulated workers in the air, rail and marine industry began, and will come into full effect on Nov. 30.
As of this date, if you are not double vaccinated, you will be unable to work in these three sectors, with some limited exemptions.
To date, ground transportation workers, including professional truck drivers, have been exempt from this requirement. While Canadian governments have exempted essential ground transportation workers from the vaccination requirements, many private companies have not. In an industry that, according to a recent Trucking HR Canada survey, has 18,000 vacancies, any reduction in the workforce is extremely problematic.
To be clear, I personally, and the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, are in full support of people getting vaccinated. We believe in the science and the medical experts who tell us vaccinations are our best way out of this pandemic.
We encourage everyone who can, to get vaccinated as soon as possible. With this said, no matter how much we encourage this, a certain percentage of the population will not get fully vaccinated.
While this may be unfortunate, it is a reality. Recent numbers from Health Canada indicate 84.25% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. If we assume these numbers can be translated to the truck driver workforce, this means any customer or government vaccine mandate will eliminate roughly 16% of the eligible workforce.
Canada employs roughly 300,000 truck drivers, meaning 48,000 drivers may be out of work. While you may not have sympathy for someone who chooses not to get vaccinated, are you ready for the effect this will have on your life?
Throughout the pandemic, drivers continued to work to ensure that the goods we needed – while many of us sheltered in place – were there for us. Drivers supply the fuel for our vehicles, heating fuels for our homes, food, medicine, blood, medical supplies, and many more of the essential items we require, as well as the non-essential items we are accustomed to.
Drivers, by the very nature of their job, are isolated most of the day. They are isolated in their truck, and in many cases when they make deliveries, come in direct contact with almost no one. Paperwork is either done electronically or via other physically distanced measures.
In addition, the transportation industry has put in place many protocols since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure the safety of their workforce, and as a result, very limited spread of Covid-19 has been attributed to drivers.
There was a time when every time we went to the store, everything we needed was there, shelfs and stockrooms were full. In our pandemic world, almost every time we go to a store we see an empty shelf, waiting to be replenished.
While a lot of these shortages are a result of supply chain issues that do not involve a driver, a significant portion of the shortages are still attributed to a truck sitting empty waiting for a driver to fill it. You think we have shortage issues now, wait until we eliminate 15-20% of the workforce.
To make matters worse, recently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that starting in January, essential workers entering the U.S. by land will also need to provide proof of double vaccination to enter.
This includes truck drivers. Seventy per cent of the $700 billion in trade between Canada and the U.S. is moved by truck. About 120,000 Canadians are involved in cross border movements, and 40,000 U.S. drivers.
Based on vaccination numbers in both countries, we are likely to see roughly 20,000 Canadian drivers and 16,000 U.S. drivers removed from the cross-border freight industry.
This will have a dramatic effect on supplies and services reaching their destination and getting in the hands of those who need them.
In a time when our supply chain is already disrupted, eliminating this many workers from the most critical stage of the supply chain is simply not something we can afford.
Think this is hyperbole? One needs to look no further than the recent U.K. fuel shortage, where the military had to be brought in to deliver fuel as a result of a lack of truck drivers. If the shortage includes food, blood, medicine or medical supplies, we really have an issue.
If you are concerned about vaccination mandates for truck drivers, I encourage you to reach out to your local MP or MPP to make your concerns known. To raise your concerns about the US DHS essential traveler vaccine mandate, reach out to Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security at Alejandro.email@example.com, and Deborah W. Meyers, director, Canadian affairs, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security at Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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