Truck driver vaccine mandates loom for cross-border operations

Canadian fleets are reporting a “modest” increase in Covid-19 vaccines among their truck drivers, but Canada’s largest trucking association continues to warn of supply chain chaos if vaccine mandates go ahead as planned.

Canada is scheduled to enforce a vaccine mandate for border-crossing truck drivers beginning Jan. 15, while the U.S. is widely expected to apply its version of such rules by Jan. 22. The Canadian government has also announced plans for a vaccine mandate that would apply to all federally regulated trucking operations, including domestic fleets that cross provincial borders, although a final date has yet to be set for those rules.

Neither government has shown signs that they are reconsidering enforcement plans, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) says.

vaccine
(Photo: istock)

“The Canadian trucking industry is preparing or bracing for these mandates one way or another,” CTA president Stephen Laskowski said in a press release.

“While there’s reportedly a modest uptick of drivers getting vaccinated at some companies, there are substantial reports of higher-than-normal turnover and others declaring their intention to leave the industry or seek employment in the provincially regulated sector over the impending mandate at the border and the recently announced domestic mandate impacting the federally regulated trucking sector.”

Vaccination rates

About 87% of Canadians over the age of 12 are now considered fully vaccinated, although that share varies by region, according to Public Health Agency of Canada data.

The CTA estimates that as many as 12,000 to 16,000 border-crossing truck drivers could be lost this month if the Jan. 15 mandate takes effect. The alliance previously calculated that about 120,000 Canadian truck drivers run cross-border routes, while 40,000 U.S.-licensed truck drivers do the same.

The alliance also believes as many as 30,000 truck drivers could leave the supply chain if a planned vaccine mandate is applied to all federally regulated domestic operations.

“We are concerned that this government has no plan to avoid much worse disruption of supply chains and has not taken steps to ensure that food and critical components get where they are needed,” federal Conservative transportation critic Melissa Lantsman said in a Jan. 5 letter to Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra.

While supporting vaccination, she said the trucking industry itself has shown little transmission of Covid-19 within workplaces.

“What is the government’s plan to support the trucking industry? How and when will vaccine mandates be enforced, and will the government support rapid testing as an alternative? Finally, when will this government take action to protect supply chains and increase their resiliency and stability?”

The driver shortage

Canada’s trucking industry has so far been exempted from vaccine mandates that have been applied to other federally regulated transportation sectors.

Some sectors of the economy are expected to be particularly vulnerable to intensifying driver shortages if affected carriers are forced to prioritize different customers, CTA says.

“CTA strongly believes the health benefits of vaccines are unquestionable. But that does not change the fact that any substantial reduction of commercial drivers, when there’s already an acute shortage, would further disrupt a very fragile supply chain and the economy,” Laskowski said.

The alliance has argued that safety protocols, high vaccination rates among drivers, and the self-isolating nature of driving have helped to keep rates of Covid-19 low within the trucking industry.

There has also been opposition to the vaccine mandates in the U.S., where 14 senators have called on U.S. President Joe Biden to work with the Canadian government to delay the border-focused rules.

“Despite the good intentions underpinning this action, we fear that the imposition of vaccination mandates as a requirement to cross the land border will exacerbate the existing challenges facing our freight networks and supply chain, and could further fuel inflation and rising prices on top of what Americans are already seeing,” the senators said in a Dec. 10 letter.

This Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court is also scheduled to hear arguments around testing and vaccine requirements for businesses with more than 100 employees. That has been opposed by business groups including the American Trucking Associations and Truckload Carriers Association.

  • This article was updated to include comments from the Conservative transportation critic.

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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  • Equipment is in shorter supply than drivers in ont. Part of the problem is wages are too low. To keep driving truck when other jobs pay the same /hr.

  • My last day is the 15th. I got notice at the border that I would not be allowed to cross a couple days ago. I am not standing for this tyranny. They should not be mandating experimental drugs to keep your job. I have had Covid and have been exposed since and never got it again. I obviously have immunity and my kids have done the same. If they are really concerned about achieving herd immunity then they should be doing t-cell tests and issuing immunity cards. We have very little contact with people and live in our trucks. Other things are afoot I’m afraid as this doesn’t make logical sense.

  • As we all know this covid gig and the variant going with it is a good mix to get the population to run for their life but it is not that every one want to have the shots for covid and one or beleive me or not many more for different variants, and truck drivers have gone cross border in the worst of the pandemic and yet they got out good with out the shots. So now they have to comply with the governing authority and get immunise even if there is no sign of trouble ahead, to make all drivers to comply they the authority will make life difficult and will starve any one that are not in the systems. Maybe it is for the best if ther is a huge shortage of drivers this will all change the way trucking will be done in the future. Better pay and security for the family and the driver included.

  • All trucking companies should pay by the hour and provide proper medical care for sick and injured drivers
    My doctor said I am better off to work for some one costco or a city transit system in ont I currently live in a homeless shelter in ont. The homeless shelter will not let me cross the border and then stay in the shelter with this last lock down. I did not see the trucking companies go to the shelters like the city bus systems have in the Last 3 months looking for drivers
    The problem is no one is willing look after drivers that get sick with covid in ont Canada.

    • Don’t worry. Soon Omicron variant will dominate and everyone will get it, vaccinated or not, you won’t get too sick with it. The symptoms are headache, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing. If that sounds like a common cold, you are right. This latest vaccine mandate is a money grab by greedy and power hungry players who have made off in the billions with this crisis and who have a vested interest in keeping it going. These vaccines and boosters will not be the last, even though the long-term effects are still unknown. That’s where the sickness will come in. Trust, the mandates and passports will tighten ever further until we are all electronically tracked and compelled to comply to ever more medical experimentation. Just say no or lose your freedoms forever.

  • I am very proud of the truckers who are taking a stand. Very little is being said regarding this mandate, which leads me to believe it may not be enforced ,with 30, 0000 not on board or leaving the industry, or it will be shirt lived. Every person opposing this unscientific mandate makes a difference. I believe God is on our side and I pray for continued courage and boldness to speak out against tyranny.

  • Well this will be the 3rd deadline to be AGAIN extended… bring on the shutdown …. when a few wallymarts run out of products to sell… the gov pressures will be strained & like the unjabbed Doctors/nurses/ or numerous other professionals, they will be begged to come back/pay reinstated for loss time… for those WHO DO RETURN.The sad part is many will find BETTER paying gigs in a better
    ( warmer) less taxed (hello Florida) climate…. & the Iron clad contracts the newbies will only accept are gonna be expensive, jic the new bosses will feel emboldened to make knee-jerk proclamations in the future…. The sooner big news outlets get on board, the less egg on your face will be waiting to be cleaned off later…

  • We’ll never be rid of a pandemic when irresponsible people refuse a simple vaccination. What’s next with these people – a willingness for a resurgence of polio, chicken pox, etc???

  • I will retire before I get jab plain and simple. The trucking industry does not pay enough money to be mandated with any more regulation. Time to create a huge shortage of drivers so the can regain the respect they once had. And it’s high time people are paid a decent wage for driving truck.

  • News came down on mandate around Jan 7 to be fully vaccinated by Jan 15 , me personally who is not vaccinated, common sense says it takes between 21 to 28 days for both vaccines and the 14 days after the second shot to be fully vaccinated, so I make the choice but can not cross boarder into my own country that I pay taxes to as they are not giving any extensions if you start the process. What a pile of buricratic crap
    Thank you Mr Trudue for interfering with my ability to earn the living that I have worked very hard to accomplish . 24 years over the road. Have followed all Covid-19’s protocols since the onset , was good enough to do this job while people worked from home a truck driver does not have that option or people would go hungry or do without , now after 22 long months you play hero mr prime minister while you also benifited at your table of the backs of thousands of people like me

  • I think it’s BS that not only have to show you are vaccinated now we have to do arrive can that is the stupidest thing ever and then confuse it more something about if you do personal travel then you do arrive can again for the business. You are effing up the country you think shelves are empty now just wait. I hope these truckers stand up to this BS. Not just truckers but every small business enough is enough.