CTA raises alarm about vaccine mandate, Metrolinx cancels buses

Canada’s largest trucking association continues to raise concerns about the timing of a Covid-19 vaccine mandate that will apply to border-crossing truck drivers beginning in January.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) highlighted the existing truck driver shortage and current vaccination rates in a related statement on Monday, as U.S. Customs and Border Protection reiterated its plans to enforce the rule.

It was the same day Metrolinx canceled scheduled bus trips because of staff shortages linked to a new vaccine mandate at the agency that manages transit services in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Crossings along the Canada-U.S. border will re-open to non-essential travelers on Nov. 8, although truck drivers will not need to demonstrate their vaccine status at that time.

“Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land POEs [port of entries] or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 and provide related proof of vaccination,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last week.

The CTA said the supply chain is not ready for the mandate, and that new timelines are needed to avoid disruptions and delays.

“Our industry is already facing a significant driver shortage and introducing this mandate will cause significant disruptions at various points of the supply chain. Government and industry need to work together to develop a plan that achieves the goal of increasing vaccination rates while ensuring cross-border goods movement remains as seamless as possible,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. 

“Losing close to 38,000 drivers, essentially overnight, would be devasting, especially with no short-term labour help on its way. Make no mistake, if this mandate moves forward as planned, there will be significant consequences for the cross-border economy, the impact of which will be felt by the Canadian and American public.”

The estimate is based on vaccination rates for the general population and the number of border-crossing truck drivers. More than 83% of Canadians over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Health Canada. The CTA estimates close to 120,000 Canadian truck drivers are involved in cross-border work, while 40,000 U.S.-licensed truck drivers do the same.

Canada’s federally regulated truck drivers who cross provincial borders are not included in a vaccine mandate that applies to their federally regulated counterparts in the rail and air sectors.

Metrolinx and TTC

Metrolinx had to cancel 89 bus trips on Monday when its vaccine mandate took hold, placing 2-3% of its 4,600 employees on unpaid leave because they were not vaccinated or had not provided a medical exemption. That represents about 6% of the agency’s scheduled trips.

“We had hoped to avoid all service impacts, but it appears that we will need to cancel a limited number of bus trips and some train trips today and likely the rest of the week as our mandatory vaccination policy comes into effect,” a Metrolinx spokesperson told TruckNews.com.

Of the 97.1% Metrolinx employees who confirmed their vaccination status, 95.4% were fully vaccinated, 2.6% were partially vaccinated, and 2% were unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is preparing to redeploy drivers and hire new operators as it approaches a vaccine mandate that takes hold Nov. 21. About 88% of TTC’s 15,090 employees have shared their vaccination status, with the “vast majority” fully vaccinated, the commission said in a related statement. It had also hosted 56 vaccination clinics for employees and customers alike.

“I stand firmly behind our vaccination policy,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said. “It is the right thing to do to protect the health and safety of our employees, their families, and the communities we serve.”