Truckers are warning that Canada’s latest vaccine mandate will hit 10 percent of the industry’s cross-border workforce in a move that could exacerbate staff shortages and cause supply chain issues.
A new federal mandate from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will require truck drivers crossing the border from the US to provide proof of vaccination starting on January 15. A similar mandate would apply to drivers arriving from Canada on January 22.
Unvaccinated US drivers will be turned back, while unvaccinated Canadian drivers will be allowed into the country but must complete a 14-day quarantine.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that 10 percent of cross-border drivers, or 16,000 workers, will be forced to take to the roads once the rules go into effect. The group told Reuters that the industry is already short of about 18,000 drivers.
Other industry experts are expecting the number of affected drivers to exceed 16,000, with the ballparking figure at around 20,000.
A national survey conducted by the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada found that 56 percent of respondents said they would not get vaccinated in response to the mandate.
“For some of them, it’s been too much miscommunication. For some, [they say]’We’ve been doing this for over two years, I haven’t had COVID. I am in a truck by myself.’ And for others, it’s a matter of religious beliefs,” Shelley Walker, president of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, told CBC.
Many worry that the mandate will have an overflow effect on the supply of foodstuffs, fuel, health supplies, among other goods.
The new vaccine requirements will be the first measures restricting cross-border delivery trucks and the Canadian government scrambling to respond to the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
Even when the border was closed in the first 20 months of the pandemic, truck drivers were able to travel between Canada and the US because they were deemed essential to the supply chain.
Of the $511 billion in goods traded annually between the two countries, more than two-thirds are transported by road.
in a statement sent to newsweekCanada’s Ministry of Transport thanked the trucking industry for its continued work during the pandemic, but stopped short of making any exceptions for unvaccinated drivers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for the trucking industry, and our government recognizes the impact it will have on those operating in the commercial vehicle and logistics sectors,” a ministry spokesperson wrote. “The dedication and commitment of these workers have ensured the continued movement of goods and the continued delivery of essential services to Canadians across the country, and they have helped maintain access to essential goods and the economy during this difficult time.”
The statement continued, “We would like to thank truckers, the trucking industry, other industry associations and our provincial/territorial counterparts for their commitment to the service and ongoing support during these trying times.” “Our government is committed to continuing to work collaboratively to find solutions to the logistical challenges faced since the start of the pandemic.”
newsweek Global Affairs Canada was also contacted for comment but did not hear back prior to publication.