Canadian truckers who are not fully vaccinated have to provide the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with a negative PCR test collected no later than 72 hours before they arrive at the border. After they present the negative test, they will also need to quarantine. (Related: EXPECT SHORTAGES: Canadian truckers not exempt from new vaccine mandate despite recent announcement.)
Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated American truck drivers will be denied entry. Canadian truck drivers who refuse to follow the policy will face enforcement action or fines upon entry.
Shelley Walker, CEO of the Women's Trucking Federation of Canada, said that her truckers were not given enough time to prepare for the vaccine mandate's implementation. Walker has spoken to a lot of Canadian truckers who were able to return from trips to the United States before the mandate went into effect.
"A few of them put in a 16-hour driving day, but they were not getting stranded down in the U.S.," said Walker. "There is a shortage of PCR tests, and where do you go in a vehicle that's 70 to 75 feet long?"
The CBSA first claimed that unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers who were dispatched across the border before the vaccine mandate went into effect would be exempted from having to quarantine or providing proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
But a federal government spokesperson later corrected this claim and said unvaccinated truckers caught in America after the start of the mandate's implementation would still need to quarantine upon their return. They will be allowed to finish their deliveries before they enter quarantine.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) warned that the country could lose between 10 to 15 percent of cross-border truck drivers due to the vaccine mandate. This would exacerbate the already critical labor shortage in Canada's trucking industry.
"You are now looking at an already scarce pool of drivers. Now that pool has gotten a bit [smaller]," said Mahesh Nagarajan, an expert on operations and supply chain management and professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business. "So what you would have to do is you have to re-optimize your trucking, where you would take the vaccinated drivers and hopefully get them across the border."
Around 120,000 licensed Canadian truck drivers operate cross-border routes. A 10 to 15 percent loss would mean losing between 12,000 to 18,000 drivers due to the vaccine mandate. This kind of loss would be catastrophic to the Canadian economy.
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, confirmed in a recent interview that the trucking industry was already suffering from as many as 23,000 vacancies at the end of the third quarter of 2021.
His own group's studies predict an even worse outcome from the vaccine mandate, and he believes it will affect roughly 20 percent of truck drivers in Canada.
"They bring our food in, our heating supplies and our groceries, everything that we need, our medical supplies," said Millian. "If we remove a fifth of that workforce, we're going to see shortages on shelves and we're going to see inflation of prices, because the cost to bring this stuff here is going to go up."
Canadian retail expert Bruce Winder said the mandate threw a "major wrench" into the Canadian and North American supply chains. Grocers, food producers and manufacturers in the automobile and building materials industries will most likely be affected the most.
"I really hope that we're not at the stage where you see food insecurity, where you're actually going to grocery stores and there's nothing on the shelf," said Winder. "That could be the worst-case scenario."
The federal government of the U.S. is also expected to unveil a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truck drivers in the coming days. According to the American Trucking Associations, a "misapplied mandate" would fuel a surge in driver turnover and attrition. America's truck driver fleet could lose as much as 37 percent of its already lacking workforce.
According to the CTA, if both mandates are in place, it could severely affect the 70 percent of the $648 billion in trade that moves between the two countries by truck.
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