BREAKING NEWS: Border-crossing Canadian truck drivers won’t face quarantines, testing under vaccine mandate

Canada’s federal government is reversing course and will not impose testing and quarantine requirements for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers at the international border when a new vaccine mandate takes effect on Jan. 15.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated U.S. truck drivers will still be turned away.

Trucks shipping goods across the Canada-US border.
(File photo: istock)

“We can now tell you that as of Jan. 15, truck drivers with a right of entry [Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act] who are unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers arriving at the border, will remain exempt from pre-arrival, arrival and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements,” a Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson told trucknews.com on Wednesday night.

“Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign national, including American, truck drivers will be prohibited entry into Canada.”

The foreign national truck drivers will be admitted to Canada only if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada, and if they they can prove a “contraindication” to a Covid-19 vaccine dosage regimen.

The new position emerged only hours after representatives of the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, and Transport Canada informed trucking associations about plans that would have applied stricter measures.

Fleet executives taken by surprise

Senior fleet executives say they were surprised by the altered approach.

“Pleasantly surprised,” said Wendell Erb, president and CEO of Erb Group of Companies.

“If this is in fact true, then it is good to see that our message has been heard,” added Rob Penner, CEO of Bison Transport.

“Our government chose to use our truck drivers and [the trucking industry] as pawns in a political game,” said Dan Einwechter, CEO of Challenger Motor Freight, referring to how the Canadian plans were announced after the U.S. unveiled its plans for a border vaccine mandate.

“As a Canadian – as a person who believes in trade, in a free society – I was very concerned about the effects on society and the cost of living increases that would be faced.”

And concerns remain.

U.S. vaccine mandate

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, but without additional measures, this has only bought the supply chain a one week extension for unvaccinated Canadian drivers,” said Sutco Transportation CEO Doug Sutherland, referring to the U.S. mandate that’s still scheduled to apply to border-crossing truck drivers beginning Jan. 22.

“The inflation numbers out of the U.S. and Canada right now are at record highs over decades. Both countries understand supply chain issues are at the root of much of it. If both countries can take a few more steps and remove the vaccine requirement for both countries’ professional drivers we stand a chance of slowing and stopping the record inflation rise.”

Einwechter remains concerned that the U.S.-imposed mandate could still convince truck drivers to leave the industry. But he hopes cooler heads will prevail in yet-resolved Canadian plans to introduce a vaccine mandate that would apply to all federally regulated trucking operations, including those that cross provincial borders.

“While we are glad to hear the government has listened and will not be requiring Canadian drivers to quarantine effective Saturday, we are still seeking further details,” said Private Motor Truck Council of Canada president Mike Millian.

“For true relief to take effect, and allow the industry to continue to supply both our nations with our essential needs, we need both countries — at a minimum — to extend the time before this regulation will take effect, to allow more drivers to get fully vaccinated or provide testing options for those who are unvaccinated.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance had estimated that as many as 12,000 to 16,000 of the 120,000 Canadian truck drivers who cross the border in their jobs could be lost based on current vaccination rates, adding to supply chain challenges.

Canadian truck drivers have been exempted from quarantine and testing requirements at the international border in their roles as essential workers throughout the pandemic.

About 40,000 U.S.-licensed truck drivers cross the border, the Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates.

“We’re at war with Covid, and our guys have stood up to fight that war valiantly,” said Challenger’s Einwechter. “Then they did this whole quarantine thing. It’s a slap in the face.”

  • This is a developing story and is being updated as more content becomes available.

Update

The day after this and other media reports were published, Canada’s federal government says information was sent in error. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers will face quarantine and testing requirements under the mandate. Details in the follow-up article below.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • While this is good news, if the US mandate goes forward on January 22nd, this announcement does nothing to help the cross border supply chain but extend capacity for an extra week.

  • So many truck drivers in do not have a home base other than a homeless shelter. In ont and Quebec sick cross border truck drivers are be turned away for the last 3 weeks . The fed gov should have required all trucking companies to have a plan that shows all their drivers have isolation options before any more foreign drivers are available to come o Canada . Also a plan for parking as e logs are coming in.

    • I don’t know a single driver that doesn’t have a home base. (and I know thousands of drivers)

      The ones that are the concern are the drivers that live in households of multiple families/generations all living under one roof. Scientifically speaking the majority of transmission occurs within the household.

  • By doing this goverment says that all vacinated people are stupid abd wrong by getting vaccinated even if it is for work.

    • Well – considering that for the average person the vaccine is approximately 0.5% effective, and – it doesn’t stop transmission or infection..

      Stupid is definitely a polite way of putting it.

  • But the following week drivers will not be able to go southbound. Not allowing US drivers in is not going to help because the US will not change their policy if Canada does not let US drivers in. Another government solution after not thinking it trough

  • The mandate should remain in effect for ALL drivers. Choices have consequences and I was looking forward to the reduction on excess trucks doing cross border freight. The rate cutting companies would have been the first to fail. Instead the government is content with allowing the steady destruction of the quality operators!!!!

    • The large shipping companies and large trucking companies do not want to be forced to provide care for sick truck or any other workers

    • Except – it’s the rate cutting companies that are jumping to force their drivers to be vaccinated but…

      That doesn’t coincide with your doctrine does it?

    • Greg, that’s just wrong. Our company pays our drivers at least 80K/year. We aim for a 4-4.5 day work week. We have quality equipment. Because of all this we charge a premium rate for our moves. This mandate is going to affect us as we will lose several good/safe drivers that are unwilling to comply. We will support them as best as we can, but it will not be easy. This mandate should be in effect for ZERO drivers. If this goes through, we will need to prioritize vaccination status over safety and experience. So whatever benefit a vaccine mandate may have, it will be erased by the increase in truck related accidents, the supply chain disruptions and the negative economic effects.

  • I have been in the transportation industry all my life. I can understand wanting to lift the quarantine requirement for truck driver that have been vaccinated. But in my opinion all drivers should be inoculated if they want to travel in both country. Driver had over two years to get vaccination. Also many of the receivers are starting to require proof of vaccination.

    • You may agree with this particular requirement by the government because it aligns with your worldview, but what happens when it doesn’t? What happens when the government puts a cap on family size for the ‘safety’ of society due to climate change and overpopulation, just because ‘the science says so’? This is not about having two years to get a medical treatment, it is about having the freedom to decide whether to get it or not without the fear of economic punishment. We have to decide whether we want Canada to remain “strong and free” or to move more and more towards socialism, and eventually towards a totalitarian state.

  • Flip flopping government weakness is nothing new. For the CTA, TCA, large carriers, etc this is about maintaining access to their pliable labour pool and nothing else. For all the talk about being socially responsible, following the science, and staying the course this spineless capitulation shouldn’t be a surprise.

    • Are you referring to the “vaccines” that for the average person are approximately 0.5% effective?

      or the science that shows that a large portion of us already have immunities to COVID?

      Or are you talking about the “Science” that the sky is falling there chicken little?

      • I am referring to the vaccines that are overwhelmingly accepted as safe and effective by medical and scientific professionals around the world. I absolutely respect your right to not be vaccinated and to espouse your opinions regarding the vaccines and their efficacy, or lack of. That said, you are a small minority of the population, and like it or not, the tail doesn’t wag the dog when it comes to dictating what the vast majority of the rest of us do. I wish you good luck and good health.

  • It is surprising that they came up with this flip decision at the last minute, however it has only pushed off the issue for a week!

    It is good news to have the Non-vaccinated Canadian drivers able to go to the US but the American drivers cannot enter Canada with the same vaccination status. This needs to be changed to allow all drivers that cross the border, no matter which side of the border they are from or vaccination status. These essential workers are required to keep the supply chains running in an already deprived driver work force.

    Planned on Jan.22, rules are suppose to come into place on the US side which are said to be a similar mandate as Canada and only vaccinated drivers to cross the border. However, will the US block the non-vaccinated Canadian drivers from entering the US as Canada did to the US drivers? The problem with this is, both sides exempt their own countrymen from entering their own country, and entry is denied to foreigners on both sides. The result is non-vaccinated drivers are still not able to cross the border and denied entry to the foreign county. Then we will be back to what was planned on Jan.15th and 12-16,000 unvaccinated Canada/US drivers unable to cross the border!
    Lets keep the wheels turning and commercial drivers need to be except from these mandates on both sides, it has worked for almost 2 years now without major issues. Otherwise stick to the mandates and only vaccinated drivers cross the border from either country and let the cards fall where they may!

  • The whole thing is a joke it is easy to see that who ever is in charge of transportation in the unqualified government they don’t have a clue of what they are doing so for all vax or not drivers the time will come to get all together and either get the two jabs and be done with it, but we all know two shots will not be enough and the same story will repeat itself.

  • What a load of BS, if u go on a holiday u have to be vaccinated & get a pcr test to get back but truck drivers are special, if they don’t want to get the vac don’t let them back in.