The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) wants a vaccine mandate for border-crossing truck drivers to be delayed, citing an internal survey that found just 67.3% of such drivers are fully vaccinated.
An estimated 74% of the drivers are expected to be vaccinated by Jan. 15, the survey concludes. But even that lags behind the 86% of Canadians 12 and older who, according to Health Canada, are fully vaccinated as of today.
The 35 cross-border fleets that responded to the PMTC survey represent 6,123 truck drivers, and they projected the vaccination rates would rise to 80.7% if the mandate was delayed to April 15.
Canada has set Jan. 15 as the deadline for a vaccine mandate that will apply to border-crossing truck drivers. The U.S. has announced plans for a similar mandate that will apply this January, and multiple media reports suggest Jan. 22 will be the deadline day. TruckNews.com has been unable to confirm that specific date.
An estimated 120,000 Canadian truck drivers run cross-border routes, while 40,000 U.S.-licensed truck drivers do the same.
As essential workers, truck drivers have so far been exempted from vaccine requirements before entering the country. They have also been excluded from previous federal vaccine mandates that apply to the air, rail and marine sectors.
“Our concerns are that this policy will cause severe shortages in an already-depleted workforce, on both sides of the border,” said PMTC president Mike Millian, in a Dec. 1 letter to government officials in both countries.
“The PMTC board is 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,” he 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.”
Only eight of the surveyed cross-border fleets have vaccine mandates or expect to have one by Jan. 15.
Lost truck drivers
Based on survey results, the PMTC projects 31,200 drivers will abandon the trucking industry in the face of a border-related vaccine mandate, dropping to 22,800 lost drivers if the deadline was extended to April 15.
Trucking HR Canada has reported that Canada had 18,000 unfilled truck driver vacancies in the second quarter of this year.
The six domestic fleets that responded to the PMTC survey said 81.6% of their drivers were fully vaccinated, and one planned to have a vaccine mandate by Jan. 15.
“Drivers, by the very nature of their job, are isolated most of the day,” Millian said. “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.
“If a reconsideration of the border vaccination mandate for essential workers is not something either country is willing to consider at this time, we need to seriously look at a delay in enforcement for truck drivers. We need to work on what the protocols will be at the border for drivers to show proof of vaccination, to ensure we don’t slow border crossings down to a snarl. We also need to provide extra time for drivers who reconsider and decide to get fully vaccinated, to have time to do so.”
The PMTC’s position echoes the stance of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA). While the CTA says many trucking companies report vaccination rates of 85-90%, it has noted that many carriers still have lower rates depending on where they’re based.
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