Trucking remains essential as Ontario tightens Covid-19 lockdown

Trucking activities will continue as an essential service in Ontario as the province introduces new Covid-19 lockdown measures effective at 12:01 am on Thursday, Jan. 14.

“Trucking activities remain an essential service, and Ontario is committed to supporting the trucking industry,” said Ontario Ministry of Transportation senior issues advisor Michael Fenn, responding to questions from Today’s Trucking.

New stay-at-home orders will require residents to remain at home except for essential activities such as going to the grocery story or pharmacy, accessing healthcare services, to exercise, or conduct essential work.

The restrictions are similar to those enacted during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

All DriveTest locations remain open for inside services such as knowledge tests, with capacity restrictions and Covid-19 preventive measures in place, Fenn said.

“Additionally, all in-vehicle road tests for commercial drivers will continue to be available. This includes the resumption of in-vehicle roads tests for commercial drivers as of December 29 at DriveTest centres. The ministry continues to offer commercial road testing and other commercial vehicle services to ensure the continued safe movement of essential goods and services.”

When at work, individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering when in the indoor business areas. Masks or face coverings are now recommended outdoors when a physical distance of more than 2 meters can’t be maintained.

A new Stay Safe All Day campaign under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will focus on workplace inspections in known areas of high transmission – including break rooms.

The ministry has found through inspections that workers in a breakroom or vehicle sometimes forget to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, and hand hygiene.

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is advising carriers to ensure the new measures are respected in their workplaces.

“We know the majority of businesses are operating safely and responsibly to protect their workers and customers. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, we all need to step up and take additional measures to stop the spread,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labor, training, and skills development. “This includes increasing our inspections to look at everything workers do both while on the job and throughout the workday.” 

Non-essential retail stores including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickups or deliveries will have hours restricted to 7 am – 8 pm. The restricted hours don’t apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants that offer takeout or delivery.

Intensive Care Unit occupancy by Covid-19 patients is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s hospitals, the provincial government says.

The news come as Quebec has enacted measures including curfews running from Jan. 9 to Feb. 8. Trucking activities continue there as well.