Trucking industry needs more time to meet U.S. border vaccine mandate, association says

Group says move could lead to ‘dangerous level of disruption of service in certain sectors’

A group representing truckers in Ontario supports the upcoming vaccine mandate at the U.S. border, but is lobbying to have the requirement delayed.

“It’s not the direction of the change, it’s the timing of the change,” Stephen Laskowski, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, said on CBC Radio’s Windsor Morning on Monday.

Truckers have been among the few people allowed to cross the land border into the United States throughout the pandemic but starting next January, they will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to Laskowski, the industry was already facing a shortage of drivers — there were 20,000 vacancies this year, he said — and now, the mandate could potentially mean thousands of out of action.

Based on vaccination rates in Canada and the U.S. and the size of the driver pool, if those currently unvaccinated don’t change their minds, Laskowski estimates 38,000 drivers could leave the cross-border trucking work force.

And it would happen as the supply chain is under a lot of strain already, he said.

“What we could see here is not just strain, but creeping toward a dangerous level of disruption of service in certain sectors,” he said.

So far, there are few details on how the rules would work and the process for potential exemptions, Laskowski said.

The announcement from Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas on Tuesday stated that the measure for essential workers would be in effect in early January — no date was mentioned — and would create “consistent, stringent protocols” for all travellers to the U.S.

“This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated,” the media release stated.

Non-essential travelers will need to be vaccinated as of Nov. 8, when the land border reopens for leisure travel.