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.
“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.
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.
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