Trucking hit by coronavirus concerns, CTA stresses drivers are ‘essential service’

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Covid-19 virus

TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling on governments to treat truck drivers like the “essential service” they are, as self-quarantine measures are established to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

“Self-quarantines for drivers leaving the country, who have not tested positive for the virus, would bring our economy to a grinding halt and jeopardize the public safety of Canadians. It is essential that distinctions are maintained between voluntary travel by the general public and those operating in vital international and domestic commerce,” the alliance says in its statement.

Trucks move about 70% of Canada’s trade with the U.S.

The call comes as the federal government is asking Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country. When asked if the government is considering closing the border over concerns about the virus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We are not closing the door to any further steps, but we will make those decisions based on what the science tells us,” the Globe and Mail reports.

“Trucking and transportation are vital to getting medical and sanitation supplies and other emergency items as well as food and water delivered every day, in every single community in our province. The supply chain is critical during this very stressful and trying time,” added Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

“Trucking is an essential service and especially during times of a global epidemic. The government needs to exempt truck drivers from [14-day quarantines for those leaving and entering Canada] to ensure access to the essential supplies that keep us all alive.”

Late Friday, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued nationwide hours-of-service relief for truck drivers who are moving emergency supplies relating to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s the first time the agency has issued nationwide relief of this nature.

U.S. eases HOS rules for truck drivers moving Covid-19 relief

The virus is already expected to affect freight volumes beyond those needed to restock empty grocery store shelves.

“Starting in the second half of February, Covid-19 (coronavirus) went from a China containment story to one of spiraling pandemic,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst for ACT. “Being a supplier of intermediate and finished goods, there are major implications for a number of freight-intensive economic sectors, and we are just on the cusp of feeling that pinch.”

Canceled, postponed shows and conferences

Several trucking-related trade shows, conferences and events have been canceled or postponed in recent days.

Truck World, Newcom Media’s national trade show serving Canada’s trucking industry, has been rescheduled to June 4-6. A corresponding TruckTech fleet maintenance summit has been shifted to Friday, June 5. Both events had been scheduled for mid-April.

The Mid-America Trucking Show that had been scheduled for March 26-28 in Louisville, Ky., was canceled outright following consultations with exhibitors, the Kentucky Governor’s Office, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Families. That news came only hours after show managers issued a communique suggesting the show would go on.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is also postponing the Truck Safety Summit that was set for March 19.

Back on this side of the border, the Alberta Motor Transport Association postponed its upcoming leadership conference and annual general meeting, after the Alberta government advised against large gatherings of more than 250 people. A new date has yet to be confirmed.

The Manitoba Trucking Association has also announced that it will postpone its annual general meeting, which had been scheduled for April 3. No future date has been set.

Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive conference went on as scheduled in Toronto yesterday — complete with bottles of hand sanitizer on every table —  but a reception that was planned for the end of the day was canceled, with organizers also citing Covid-19 concerns.

Truck OEMs rework strategies

Volvo Trucks had already shifted the launch of its newest European truck lineup online, canceling an international media event just days before it was to occur in Sweden. Both Volvo and Mack Trucks also pulled personnel out of booths at the ConExpo trade show in Las Vegas, although equipment was still displayed.

“While we are strong supporters of ConExpo, our first priority is the health and wellbeing of our employees, stakeholders, and their families,” said Mack president Martin Weissburg.

Daimler Trucks North America pulled out of that show on March 6 as well.

“This was not a decision we took lightly,” said David Carson, senior vice-president – vocational sales and marketing. “It is with an abundance of respect for the well-being of our employees and customers that we have decided not to participate in this year’s show.”

Navistar has established what it describes as a “cross-functional response team” to ensure continuity and preparedness plans are updated. Additional cleaning measures and procedures are underway at company facilities, and business travel to restricted areas have been banned.

“We do not expect our vendors or suppliers to travel to or visit Navistar offices during this time. We have encouraged teleconferences, video meetings and the use of other remote meeting technology when possible,” president and CEO Troy Clarke said in an issued statement.

-This is a developing story that is being updated as new information emerges



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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • putting a truckers life for an exemption tells me two things…ONE the one asking for this sort of dangerous deal cares ONLY about money! Not lives!
    Two has no clue or idea about basic management principals on how to manage such an ordeal.
    I am a trucker AND have managed projects on time, under budget with TOP safety for all involved..

    so i call BS!

  • What protection do these truck drivers have that will get medical care in both the U S and in Canada. This is a concern of many truck drivers. The C T A and federal and provincial governments need to do a better job of treatment of sick truck drivers.

  • We need to protect truck drivers and also make sure the truck drivers do not give C19 to someone else . the C T A needs to make a public statement on coverage of all truck driver from canada in the U S backed up by our fed gov. Other jobs will be out there for the next 3 weeks looking after kids as school is cancelled. The Insurance Co. in On. are saying they may not cover the cost of treatment of truck drivers who get C 19. I know in my case when i got injured on the job the insurance company did not even cover the hospital bill and the case when my property was hit by a wind storm 80 months ago and my house is still condemned the insurance company has stalled for over 6 years. We need to give truck drivers the same protection as nurses or people with overtime provisions if they are declared important. If not many truck driver will leave the industry for good and trucking will have a rough time to recruit new people.

  • The article is great but it doesn’t express drivers safety or any protections for any and all truck drivers is or Canada.
    What is the government’s plan on keeping all drivers safe?

  • If we are so essential why hasn’t the industry seen any wage increases in how long …. This gets bad I’m staying home. Not worth getting sick for these shi77y wages so some some dispatcher and CEO can get more bonus money.

  • Stop trucks moving and in a week there won’t be anything, anywhere. No food, gasoline you name it, nothing.
    Trucks and truck drivers keep the economy moving and the country alive.

  • Think the federal government should make it clear that trucks will not be stopped on cross border travel, to many Rumors floating about causing needless stress.

  • As I once heard a driver say, “truckers hold the keychain to the food chain.”
    How can commercial motor carriers cease this moment to raise the stature of the truck driver? They are long overdue for, and deserve, the right kind of recognition. Treat them kindly.

  • We truck drivers are only good to the public when it comes to emergencies otherwise we are nobody in Canada people don’t really like truck drivers or big trucks but when it comes to deliver the groceries in a panic that’s when you like the truck drivers to do it. very sad how we are treated as truck drivers no rest areas to stop in dirty truck stops and goes on anon not only that we can only claim 80% of our road expenses on our taxes and the government wants us to do emergency services for them this is a joke I’m glad I will be done in three years you guys think 25,000 short of drivers now you wait in five years government will be begging for truck drivers and furthermore With these driverless trucks they will be a joke in Canada at -40 thank you y’all take care

  • the only way this could work, is they stay in the truck, someone open and close the trailer doors, paperwork emailed instead of going into the warehouse, someone at the truck stops(card locks ) to feel the trucks and deliver food… but wait truckers need showers and to poop, so public potentially contaminated washrooms just won’t work, and will contribute the spread… And while we’re at it Maybe better pay… cause lets face it we may not stop at a lot of places, but we do stop. So is the price of a drivers life really worth working for 39.5 cents a mile…

  • I am a Canadian trucker who drives about 90% of my time in the USA. I’ve been combing the internet trying to find out anything I can about what to do if I get infected. All I seem to find is articles on how trucks need to keep going to keep commerce running. No one gives a shit about us. I ask the boss man. I get the usual response. KEEP MOVING!!!!!

    • Ya Bro , Me too, each time I return from a trip, boss says get ready for next load, bloody hell trying to get me infected. They sitting at home getting paid for dropped loads

  • Thanks for the continued support. Have you heard if the Ontario state of emergency plan will accommodate trucks licence plate costs for units that are forced to park due to limited or zero deliveries with all of the shut downs? Thank You

  • If you want real change for truckers email your government. Public safety minister Tell him you are vital and want your wages subsidized. Anyone with a Class 1 or AZ could receive payments directly for your health and safety to be addressed. This should have been morally addressed long ago . There should be social justice for the very vital work being done now, and for our future. What happens if the truckers get sick? We ask you to not be home on your comfy couch. The others out there keeping us safe earn way more than truckers. This has to change. We won’t make pandemics in 10 years when all the baby boomer truckers are gone . Email every official you can. This is the only way to change things.You have to peacefully and respectfully ask to be compensated for the vital work you do.

  • All truckers are very passionate about the industry. If you want change ask for it peacefully and respectfully from your government . Now is the time to email your MP and public safety minister and your prime minister and let them know you deserve respect in a financial compensation. Everyone else seeing us thru this pandemic is making way more money than you. We sit on our comfy couch and say “oh, good the truckers are still rolling. I can get my food, pharmaceuticals,or TP or whatever I want “. No one ever says “ I wonder how the truckers will do it with not even a place to rest or use the public bathroom “. The government what you want . If you have a class AZ license you can prove who you are and get subsidized for your work.

  • I would like too see a solidarity in the trucking by driving with your 4-way flashers every Monday at 21hr for 5 min
    Too say thanks for our serice

  • government should make a mandatory 15 day covid test available at every big truck stop, result available in 2 days, so that trucker can know their health status. if government want to charge for this test they can charge , but make sure that truckers are smooth and all truck stops also.

  • My brother is a Canadian truck driver. He is often going from the state’s to Canada. We worry as we hear of truck stops closing their shower facilities. He has no mask. He has to access or cannot find supplies to wipe surfaces etc as the stores are all out. He cannot go home as his wife is vulnerable. He and all the others are truly front line workers and essential. Can the government or the truckers association not provide these people with the basics to do their jobs. I am very worried about these unsung hero’s. I lost my Mom and a brother this year. I don’t want to lose another member of our family. Please give these people a direct line to ask for the basic it kits etc. Husky has closed two shower facility in Thinfer Bay Area.

  • It’s still sad that freight brokers still under paying and maximizing their profits by lowering spot quote rates for desperate truckers.
    No trucker union to protect the rates..

    • Additionally most freight brokers sitting at home within lap tops in their PJ safe from the virus ..making 30% percent profits while truckers are in the line of fire driving moving goods…
      And when this is all done government service union for doctors and nurses will negotiate rates and truck driver will a market when brokers will take advantage again of us .
      When are we going to realize we need to unionize or protect our rates

  • these are very trying times in trucking. Im staying off the roads until this country has some competent leadership to deal with this virus or until the trucking companies decide to share some of the premium they recieve, with drivers and provide an insurance policy for my family in case of my death. No trucking company is worth trading my life for.

    • I served in the armed forces, Im not going to serve a greedy trucking company. Is the trucking company going to provide for a drivers family if they put their live on the line? NO. All drivers should adopt this attitude.