Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Feds reverse last minute on vaccine mandate for truck drivers

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 2:54 PM EST. published to

Last updated on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022 10:18 PM EST

MONTREAL — The federal government is withdrawing its vaccine for Canadian truck drivers three days before it goes into effect.

Ottawa announced in mid-November that truckers arriving in Canada would be required to be fully vaccinated by this Saturday.

But on Wednesday evening Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy told The Canadian Press that Canadian big-riggers will not have to be quarantined if they are unvaccinated or have only received a single dose.

The news came as a surprise to Stephen Laskowski, president of the Trucking Alliance of Canada, who says industry representatives met with government officials as recently as Wednesday afternoon and were told the mandate was still in place until January 15. was on the track.

Trade unions on both sides of the border were pushing for a delay in the ban, which they say will put additional strain on the supply chain amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe labor shortages.

The new rule will still be in effect for US truck drivers, who will be turned back at the border until they are vaccinated later this week.

According to the Trucking Alliance, about 10 percent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers crossing the border may not be able to work on those routes because they haven’t been jab.

The Canada Border Services Agency declined to say whether the truckers’ exemption was temporary or indefinite, or what prompted the change.

The vaccine mandate had already begun to affect trucking operations.

“We have several members who have already said that they will not send unvaccinated drivers across the border,” Laskowski said.

Transportation companies have never opposed a vaccine mandate; “It’s time for it,” he said, citing supply-chain pressure points, from closed ports to sick workers and inflation.

However, the new rule may have encouraged some reluctant workers to roll up their sleeves. A Montreal-based logistics company last month offered a $10,000 bonus to all drivers who received their first vaccine dose by mid-January in hopes of retaining staff and increasing vaccination rates.

Another, Ontario-based Titanium Transportation Group, which has a fleet of 800 tractors, says 95 percent of its drivers are fully vaccinated.

“Most likely there’s no good time, right? They’ve had this leeway for a long time. So maybe it’s the right time,” said CEO Ted Daniels.

Nonetheless, numerous trade groups called on Ottawa to postpone Saturday’s deadline.

Recent floods in British Columbia and China’s “zero-COVID policy” have added to supply-chain bottlenecks, the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition said in a letter signed by 18 industry union chiefs calling for a delay. Were. The Petroleum Services Association of Canada said the vaccine mandate “will only aggravate things further.”

Trucks account for about two-thirds of the $21 billion in agri-food imports Canada receives from the United States each year, according to Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy. The dependence on American products is high, especially in winter.

“We are already seeing empty shelves in shops. We don’t want anymore,” he said.

“The stakes are much higher in our favor than on the American side, because the US will buy raw materials to be processed domestically, whereas in Canada most of the products we buy from Americans are market-ready, such as produced and processed. Meal. “

The US is set to implement its own vaccine mandate on January 22 for essential workers at the border.

Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Association, estimates that less than half of the 28,000 American drivers who regularly haul freight across the border will no longer be able to do so, posing a threat to the smooth supply of goods.

“We want everyone to get vaccinated. We are not anti-wax. But this is a group of people, for whatever reason – I’m not going to point fingers – they are not vaccinated at a high rate,” Costello said, citing “very independent minded” drivers.

Laurel Lennox, spokeswoman for Federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabara, said the labor shortage stemming from Omicron is really affecting essential sectors.

“We also know that vaccination is the best way to fight this pandemic, protect workers’ health and safety, and keep our economy going,” she said in an email on Tuesday.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole warned last week that “we’re going to see prices skyrocket for groceries, everything,” and that the Liberal government’s vaccine mandate would spark “division and pink slip”. .

According to Statistics Canada, the job vacancy rate in transportation and warehousing reached 5.2 percent in the third quarter of 2021, lower than the average of 5.4 percent across all sectors.

However, the Trucking HR Canada business group said that the number of vacancies among truck drivers increased 20 percent to 22,990 from the second quarter of 2020, for a vacancy rate of about eight percent, particularly between July and September.

Days before Saturday’s deadline, the Canadian Trucking Alliance said the government had not provided all details regarding compliance.

The ArriveCan app or web portal remains the only way for U.S. truck drivers to submit vaccination information, including those for U.S. truckers, beginning January 15, the Canada Border Services Agency said. Further proof of vaccination may be required at the border, she wrote Tuesday.

The agency will have “mechanisms” in place to facilitate cross-border trucking, Purdy said, but “will not compromise the health and safety of Canadians for border wait times.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 12, 2022.

– With files from Jordan Press in Ottawa


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