The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) will be pressing Canadian and American authorities for more time to prepare for vaccine mandates recently announced by both countries for cross-border truck drivers.
Considering Canada’s announcement today that it too will require truck drivers – both Americans and Canadians – to be double vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus by January 15, 2022, when crossing into Canada, CTA has warned a hasty implementation could spell even more trouble for the North American supply chain that is already facing challenges associated with the driver shortage.
The planned deadline of mid-January barely gives unvaccinated long-haul drivers, who are constantly away from home and working to support North American supply chain needs, the appropriate time to reconsider their status and get both approved shots in time to comply with this policy as currently planned.
“We are extremely concerned there is a perfect storm brewing,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “In light of worldwide supply chain disruptions and delays, it’s unclear how the supply chain and the trucking industry, in particular, can withstand further turmoil and maintain the service levels required to deliver critical products Canadians and Americans need.”
The Canadian trucking industry is suffering from an acute, year-round, shortage of truck drivers. As of November 2021, there are currently over 18,000 job vacancies for truck drivers in Canada. These shortages are already placing immense pressure on an already fragile national supply chain which is struggling to meet current demand. This includes responding to other emergencies that exist outside of normal supply chain pressures.
Canada’s announcement comes weeks after the Biden Administration proposed a mandate requiring all Canadian cross-border truck drivers to be vaccinated by January 2022. The decision has already triggered many drivers to reconsider their careers and the situation is causing carriers concern regarding their ability to maintain service to customers in both countries if drivers leave their jobs or refuse to cross the border.
To avoid economic disaster, truck drivers – classified as essential workers – have thus far been permitted to cross the border for work while it has been closed to non-essential traffic, since, understandably, the Canadian and US economies move by truck.
About 70 percent of the $648 billion in trade between the two countries moves by truck. In total, there are 120,000 Canadians who operate cross border and 40,000 US licensed drivers moving north-south trade.
While Canada’s decision to implement its own vaccination mandate would change little for cross-border truck drivers who would need to be vaccinated anyway to cross the border and comply with the U.S. rule, CTA is now echoing calls to delay timelines currently proposed for January 2022.
Laskowski stresses the supply chain is nowhere near ready for the mandates as currently scheduled and that Canadian and US officials need to work with the trucking industry to develop a clear plan and alternative timeline to soften the impact to a supply chain that is already strained.
Supply chains are hardly seamless even during normal, pre-COVID times. There are sharp peaks and valleys in the goods movement market at different times of the year. These swings dictate the need for resources; and in the trucking industry specifically, driver pools need to flex up to meet the needs of the supply chain cycle. To compound things further, when there is a huge spike in one or more sectors of the economy, the demand for capacity by that sector will have an impact on the resources available to all others. The removal of drivers from the supply chain by implementing the January 15 mandate will take the industry a considerable period of time to recover.
“As we have seen throughout the world over the last year, supply chains are very fragile ecosystems and sometimes people’s overreactions to the threat of product shortages can cause even further problems,” says Laskowski. “We’ve seen first-hand how difficult it is to get certain products to market when supply chains are interrupted. And if these vaccination mandates are not handled with caution and great consideration, we could see those delays and shortages taken to levels that will create more anxiety for manufacturers and consumers alike.”
CTA conservatively estimates that 10-20 percent of Canadian truck drivers crossing the border (12,000-22,000), and 40 percent of US truck drivers (16,000) travelling into Canada would exit the Canada-US trade system should the vaccination mandate take effect in January 2022.
“It is entirely unclear how the industry and supply chain can compensate for thousands of drivers abruptly exiting the system overnight,” said Laskowski. “Make no mistake, if this mandate moves forward as planned, it would bring significant consequences for the cross-border economy, which will be felt by the Canadian and American public.
“Government and industry need to work together to develop a plan that achieves the goal of increasing vaccination rates while ensuring cross-border goods movement remains as seamless as possible. CTA is calling on both governments to move the January 15 deadline to a date that mitigates doubt and negative consequences to the supply chain.”
The Government of Canada has stated the use of ArriveCAN will be used to verify vaccination status of truck drivers arriving into Canada. CTA will be working with the federal government to update its previously released training package, as well as confirming whether there are any updates/amendments to the one-time submission of ArriveCAN data and will provide that information to industry in the coming days.