As positive COVID-19 cases surge across Canada, there is an increased emphasis on solutions to stopping the virus and, naturally, renewed focus on some industries which are accused of disproportionally propelling its spread to other sectors of the economy. The Canadian Trucking Alliance is stating, unequivocally, that trucking – and truck drivers in particular – is not one of them.
Canadians have come to depend on professional truck drivers and the women and men in the industry who support them to get us through this pandemic. Our hard-working driving force has kept critical goods like food and health products moving and stocked on store shelves. To protect these essential workers, trucking companies and drivers continue to implement a host of safety measures and social distancing protocols, based on the best medical advice and industry practices, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, as many search for answers and solutions to fight this crisis, some people have wrongly identified the very people who have kept this country moving as a source for the growing COVID-19 problem. These mischaracterizations being made of truck drivers, including those who must travel across the border and between provinces to deliver the essential freight Canadians and businesses require, are unfair and, flatly, unsupported by the evidence and available data.
The truck driving occupation is extremely isolationist, especially compared to a discretionary traveller who will be staying at hotels, visiting busy restaurants or other social settings where the risk of COVID spread is exponentially higher. A long-haul truck driver may only come into physical contact with one or two people over three or four days, while principally eating and sleeping in their own vehicle. And with extensive COVID protocols in place throughout the supply chain, most potential contact with other people is most likely occurring between plexiglass and/or from a responsible social distance.
The existing data on truck drivers and COVID-19 shows the risk for positive virus rates among this essential worker community remains extremely low. In fact, two pilots involving voluntary COVID-19 testing of truck drivers in Alberta and Ontario revealed that zero drivers tested positive. It is very difficult for any sector to achieve better results. This is just one example of the industry’s commitment to preventing the spread of COVID-19, and how seriously we take our critical role as an essential service throughout the pandemic.
To reaffirm this pilot data, CTA conducted a survey of its Board members who are engaged in cross-border transportation. Thirty-five carriers from all regions in Canada, representing a combined 12,000 cross-border drivers, reported that only 60 drivers contracted COVID-19 (0.005 per cent) since March 2020 – the majority of which contracted the virus through community spread and not related to their occupation.
But despite all their good work and all the evidence which shows truck drivers to be among the safest professions in Canada, drivers throughout the pandemic have been rewarded by constantly being singled out and stigmatized as spreaders of the virus, which has led to denied access to retail-restaurant facilities and washrooms. Worse, some drivers and their families have been turned away from receiving standard medical treatment and access to vaccines, despite meeting all other qualifications.
Beyond the negative social and personal impact on drivers, discussion of mandatory COVID-19 testing of cross-border drivers will pose significant logistical and operational challenges for the trucking industry and the supply chain. Drivers, who are governed by hours-of-service regulations, will undoubtably face delays and congestion associated with testing at the border (the vast majority of truck plazas at land border crossings have extremely limited parking spaces), which will lead to wide-spread delivery disruptions throughout the supply chain and economy.
The Government of Canada and provincial governments have been incredibly supportive of our sector throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Let’s maintain this support by not stigmatizing drivers with mandatory COVID-tests and public statements identifying truck drivers as a main source of COVID-spread, which is absolutely not the case.
CTA and its members continue to stand ready to increase the vaccination rate in our sector as quickly as possible.