Canadian Flag

COVID-19: Truckers hauling to the U.S. rarely leave their vehicles, remain exempt from testing

The industry says a low number of positive COVID cases from millions of trips during COVID restrictions prove testing truckers when the new rules begin on Monday isn’t necessary

Mandatory COVID testing is to start at land border crossings on Monday, but the tens of thousands of truckers based in B.C. are among the essential workers who remain exempt from proving they are virus free before they enter Canada.

Truck driver Carole Webster, who stopped to answer some questions en route to B.C. from southern California with a load of juice concentrate, said testing isn’t necessary because most truckers are already taking precautions.

“(Trucking) is a very, very solitary life, and it’s very solitary now,” she said from Weed, Calif., near the end of a six-day trip with her travelling companion, Charley, a Pomeranian Chihuahua. “The only time I leave my truck is when I pick up a fuel receipt or go grab a shower.”

And she knows of one trucker who won’t leave his truck at all, taking sponge baths because “he’s afraid of getting something and he’s worried about bringing something back to his brother (who is ill). If my mom was still alive, I would be doing the same thing.”

When Webster entered a public bathroom and saw there were five young woman socializing, with masks that didn’t cover their noses, she turned around back to her truck, “where I have a little bucket. The COVID shun, as I call it. I use the bucket more than I go into washrooms.”

“You really don’t want to step out of your truck,” said Webster, who lives in Armstrong. She left on Friday to drop off a load of Rogers flour in California before returning with the juice concentrate and two more pickups in northern Washington before expecting to arrive in Kelowna on Wednesday evening.

As fears about the spread of new COVID variants rise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday those on non-essential travel arriving by land will have to show a negative virus testing result done no more than 72 hours before arriving, or face a $3,000 fine.

Canadians arriving by land can’t be refused entry because they are on Canadian soil when they meet with border guards, unlike those arriving by air, Trudeau said.

Land travellers will not have to quarantine for an estimated $2,000 in expenses each, as air travellers will soon have to.

That would allow travellers such as snowbirds to avoid the expense.

SURREY, B.C.: September 15, 2020 -- Peace Arch Border on September 15, 2020. A smokey haze hangs over the Canada / USA border. Photo is for Jen Saltman story on the Cascadia Corridor -- an  online forum looks at the state of cross-border travel between B.C. and Washington and cooperation during COVID, and explores new innovations and technologies which support safe cross-border travel and economic recovery. Photo Credit: Niki Bennett / Postmedia [PNG Merlin Archive]
Peace Arch Border on September 15, 2020. Photo by Nikola Bennett /PNG

The testing policy exempts essential workers such as commercial truckers, confirmed Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Judity Gadbois-St-Cyr in an email.

“Details are being finalized and more information will be announced in coming days,” she said.