Trucking associations push to end vaccine mandate at US borders

Canadian Trucking Alliance, OOIDA urge American government to lift COVID-19 shot requirement

While the Biden administration plans to let COVID-19 public health emergency measures expire in May, proof of vaccination for non-U.S. citizens could still be in effect when crossing the border into America.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is urging the U.S. government to end its vaccine mandate for non-American truck drivers traveling back and forth from Canada. 

CTA officials said the border vaccine mandate affects thousands of unvaccinated truck drivers in Canada and Mexico by preventing them from entering the U.S. The United States began its vaccine border mandate for foreign drivers in January 2022.

“Once the announcement of the removal of these COVID-19 emergencies was made, there was optimism that the U.S. border vaccine restrictions would also be removed at this time,” Lak Shoan, director of CTA’s policy and industry awareness programs, told FreightWaves. “So far, we don’t have any confirmation about whether this will occur or not.”  

Last week, President Joe Biden announced the COVID-19 public health emergency will end in the U.S. on May 11. The termination of the emergency declaration will bring about policy changes and signal a new chapter in the government’s pandemic response.

It’s unclear if the border vaccine requirements will end May 11. The Biden administration’s proclamation to rescind the COVID emergency did not mention ending the vaccine mandate for non-U.S. citizens at the border.

Canda lifts vaccine mandate

Canada ended its border vaccine requirement Oct. 3, prompting calls from several major trucking associations for the U.S. to immediately follow suit.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) President Todd Spencer sent a letter to Biden, urging him to end the mandate. 

Spencer said the border vaccine mandate has created more paperwork for owner-operators and “forced them out of business or to change their operations.”

Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for OOIDA, told FreightWaves the association continues to support lifting COVID-19 restrictions on cross-border travel as quickly as possible.

Officials for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the largest national trucking trade association in the U.S., also said they support having the restrictions lifted.

“ATA strongly supports efforts to end the requirement for commercial drivers to show they have received the covid vaccine before crossing the border into or out of the United States,” said ATA Senior Vice President of International Trade and Cross-Border Operations Bob Costello.

Shoan said about 10%-15% of Canadian truck drivers remain unvaccinated, creating a substantial number still unable to cross the border.

The CTA, based in Toronto, represents about 4,500 carriers, owner-operators and trucking industry suppliers. 

“The U.S. border restrictions mean that thousands of Canadian drivers are unable to support Canada-U.S. trade and goods movement,” Shoan said. “Taking a significant number of drivers out of the cross-border supply chain has led to tighter capacity and operational constraints for Canadian carriers.”

Officials for the Canadian Trucking Alliance said as many as 15% of truck drivers across Canada are unvaccinated and are being affected by the U.S. border mandate. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Vaccine mandate has varied effects on cross-border trucking

The vaccine mandate has had mixed effects on U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking, with some operators saying it has affected the available number of drivers.

John Esparza, president and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association, said U.S.-Mexico cross-border freight flows remain strong despite the mandate. Esparza said he also supports having the vaccine mandate lifted.

“We support what the CTA is talking about in terms of seeing that restriction lifted, and then seeing the availability of drivers go up, and capacity go up as a result,” Esparza said.

Truck drivers at both the Canadian and Mexican borders have also commented that they have never been asked by U.S. Customs to show proof of vaccination status.

Some members of Congress have also been pushing to end the border vaccine requirements.

Brian Higgins, D-New York, recently submitted an amendment to a larger bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would end the requirement for showing proof of vaccination for Canadians entering the United States along land ports of entry.

“This lingering mandate is hurting families and the U.S. economy,” Higgins said in a news release. “The time to remove the vaccine requirement on Canadians and encourage a robust return to cross-border travel is long overdue.”

Shoan said the border vaccine mandate continues to have a negative impact on North America’s supply chain.

“We have continued to reiterate that removing these restrictions will not only support our integrated economies and supply chain but also U.S. businesses and commerce by adding increased capacity, especially as the state of our economy remains in flux,” Shoan said.