Truck vaccination rules begin amid lingering supply chain issues

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Provincial and national industry experts remain concerned about staffing shortages and supply chain issues as vaccination mandates for truckers go into effect.

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On Saturday, all unvaccinated Canadian truckers returning from the United States must meet testing and quarantine requirements, the federal government said Thursday. Truckers must prove that they have received two doses of the vaccine to circumvent these measures.

Canada’s vaccination mandate comes before the United States moves forward with plans to deny entry to Canadian drivers who are not fully immunized from January 22.

Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said 52% of Alberta’s gross domestic product is delivered by truck, calling the province’s transportation system a lifeblood of the economy. However, supply chains have suffered severe setbacks due to the pandemic and recent flooding in British Columbia, she said.

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“We have worked with our industry stakeholders throughout the pandemic to maintain an efficient workforce and transportation network,” Sawhney wrote in a statement Friday.

“We have also worked with the federal government to address the challenges facing our industry, and we will continue to advocate on our behalf.”

  1. Many trucks fill the Roadking Truck Stop parking lot in Calgary on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 as drivers wait to see if flood-damaged roads in British Columbia will reopen.

    Dozens of truckers wait for BC highway to reopen at Calgary truck stop

  2. Transport trucks parked at the Road King truck stop in Calgary on April 2, 2020.

    Truckers welcome dropping vaccination mandate, but concerns remain

At the start of the pandemic, long-haul truck drivers were considered essential activities and exempt from immediate quarantine and other restrictions. Ottawa moved to rescind those exemptions in November with a January 15 vaccination mandate.

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Stephen Lakowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said the mandate could potentially lead to delays at the border in the coming days if unvaccinated truckers have to turn their big trucks around.

But the biggest concern is the wider supply chain effects caused by driver shortages, which are expected to be felt cumulatively in the weeks and months to come, he said.

The Alberta Motor Transport Association said there was a shortage of more than 4,000 commercial drivers in the province. Association president Chris Nash said the industry could lose up to 20,000 cross-border drivers due to the mandate.

“They could be reassigned to a reserved role in Canada, but those are the challenges we face now,” Nash said.

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Industry supports vaccination but needs more time to improve inoculation rates through education and better access, Nash said.

Most people have time during the day to get vaccinated, but for truckers, weeks away from home and long days on the road can make access difficult, he said. Nash estimated the vaccination rate for Alberta truckers to be slightly lower than the national rate at 83 to 87 percent.

“We promote, we try to do it, but we just need more time.”

Last May, Nash said AMTA worked with the governments of Alberta and Montana to host a three-week vaccination clinic just south of the Canada-US border. More than 800 drivers were vaccinated during the campaign, he said.

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Either way, Nash said the mandate’s impact on existing staffing shortages has already exacerbated supply chain issues. Carriers must prioritize deliveries with fewer drivers, which means products will take much longer to deliver, he said.

“From what we hear from our members, day one (of office) is going to impact them,” he said. “It will mean that the products will not move. And that’s really going to be the challenge.

There has been some confusion around the enforcement of the warrant after a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency suggested unvaccinated truckers would not have to quarantine on Saturday. The federal government has since said Wednesday’s announcement was a mistake.

— With files from Bill Kaufmann and The Canadian Press

[email protected]

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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