Travel restrictions won’t affect trucking : PM Trudeau

OTTAWA, Ont. – “Trucking will not be affected.”

With those five words, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reassured the trucking industry that travel restrictions announced by Canada and the U.S. on Wednesday will not affect supply chains.

“These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border,” Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa.

He said he spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump earlier in the day, and both leaders agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border as the two countries fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus has infected nearly 700 people in Canada, killing nine of them. In the U.S., there have been 7,000 cases and 112 deaths.

Globally, Covid-19 has sickened more than 200,000 people, and killed 8,000 since its outbreak in China late last year.

In deciding on the travel restrictions, Trudeau said the government had been assessing the impact they would have on the economy.

But he said the restrictions will not apply to commerce, or trade.

“We understand that it is very important for the border to remain open because we are talking about $2 billion worth of goods that cross the border every single day,” Trudeau said.

“So, it is critical, not just for the health of our economy but for the health of our citizens that continue to be the case.”

Trudeau said he and Trump both want to ensure the smooth flow of essential goods across the border.

“That is something that we remain committed to. We will work in close collaboration on an ongoing basis to make sure that continues. And these measures will last in place as long as we feel that they need to last, we will again closely coordinate on that as well.”

The prime minister also announced an emergency relief package worth $27 billion that will directly support Canadian workers and businesses.

Another $55 billion will be used to meet the liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy.

“Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than 3% of Canada’s GDP,” Trudeau said.

Industry welcomes measures

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) was quick to welcome Trudeau’s comments that the new restrictions won’t affect the trucking industry.

“The Canadian trucking industry is encouraged by the Government of Canada’s clear recognition the trucking industry is an essential service in these uncertain times and truck drivers, in particular, are the front-line workers Canadians will be depending on to help us through this crisis,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski.

“Throughout history our nation’s truck drivers have been called upon to support Canada, assist Canadians and keep our economy going. We are proud how they’ve answered the call once again during this crisis.”

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada also welcomed government efforts to stop the spread of the virus, but said it is  concerned about the long delays truckers are facing at the border.

“So, we must ensure we have the proper resources, information and tools for the frontline officers at the borders to do their jobs thoroughly, ensure proper protection, and with as few delays as possible,” it said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has indicated that Canadian truck drivers should not see any issues beyond the additional screening and questioning pertaining to Covid-19, unless a truck driver exhibits clear symptoms or has returned from a “hot spot” country within the past 14 days, CTA said.

Drivers who try to cross the border within a 14-day period of returning form one of these locations will be denied entry into the U.S.

  • This story has been updated with new Covid-19 data and comments from the industry.

Report by Abdul Latheef