Cross-border truck drivers to face vaccine mandate

Cross-border truck drivers will need to prove they’re fully vaccinated against Covid-19 beginning in early January, under a series of measures that will also see more non-essential travelers return to land and ferry crossings.

“This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated,” U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a related statement.

“This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land or ferry – and accounts for the wide availability of Covid-19 vaccinations.”

Canada and the U.S. restricted non-essential travel along the land border beginning in March 21, 2020. While Canada reopened the border to fully vaccinated U.S. travelers this August, the U.S. will begin to permit vaccinated non-essential travelers in November.

Existing restrictions were set to expire Oct. 21, but will be extended until the new rules are in place.

Questions remain as to whether the U.S. will recognize those with mixed vaccine doses, and what types of documents will be needed to prove the vaccine status.

Trucking industry representatives are already expressing concerns about the impact a vaccine mandate could have on supply chains.

“It’s going to be a disaster,” said Wendell Erb, president and CEO of the Erb Group, a cross-border fleet headquartered in New Hamburg, Ont.

“Unfortunately, the percentage of people who are unvaccinated have not intention of getting vaccinated,” he said. “I’m already short of drivers to handle the freight I’m going to have.”

Trucking HR Canada data identified 18,000 truck driver vacancies in the second quarter of this year.

The mandate could be the factor that pushes other drivers away from cross-border work, Erb added.

“At the end of the day, I severely worry about the supply chain,” said Doug Sutherland, president of Sutco Transportation, headquartered in Salmo, B.C. “If we don’t have another solution, [such as] testing on a weekly basis, we’re going to see something detrimental to the supply chain.”

Sutherland stressed he supports vaccines. “I wouldn’t ever have anticipated the push we have seen against vaccines.”

But if the vaccines are actually mandated, he worries that Canada could be short close to 15,000 truck drivers, based on the vaccination rates for the general population.

“The big issue we’re running into here is we already have a severe supply chain shortage,” said Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada.

It’s probably safe to assume that, like the general population, about 20% of truck drivers remain unvaccinated, he added. “We’re looking at a 20% reduction in our cross-border workforce at a time when we’re trying to fill seats.”

South of the border, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has also raised concerns about plans for a vaccination mandate that would apply to any business with more than 100 employees.

“I didn’t realize if you’re a small fleet you’re immune,” Erb said.

In a survey conducted in mid-September, just 29% of surveyed Today’s Trucking readers said their workplaces require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Twenty-seven percent said they would consider leaving their job if their employer required people to be vaccinated, and 32% said a “significant share” of the trucking industry’s workforce would quit their jobs if required to get vaccines.

The survey had 554 respondents.

  • This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.