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North American Supply Chain Preparing for Border and Domestic Vaccination Mandates: CTA

By January 15, only fully vaccinated Canadian truck drivers will be permitted to move the $650 billion in trade that crosses the Canada-US border, Ottawa has signaled to supply chain stakeholders.

Washington has made the same decision, with an expected date for enforcement beginning Jan. 22.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has requested both governments meet and consult with key members of the supply chain to determine a more suitable date for enforcement that would be much less disruptive to the North American supply chain, which is already struggling to function at normal capacity. To date, neither government has given any indication they have reconsidered enforcing the mandates this month nor have they provided any thorough details about what enforcement would entail.

The Government of Canada continues to prepare for the January 15 border vaccination mandate by providing additional materials to industry to assist in complying through the use of ArriveCAN. The information includes a walkthrough of the ArriveCAN process and other materials that are available to access in both official languages. Click here to access.

Additional information on changes to how travellers crossing the border must comply is available here.

“Feedback from CTA members from across the country over the last couple of weeks indicates the Canadian trucking industry is preparing or bracing for these mandates one way or another,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “While there’s reportedly a modest uptick of drivers getting vaccinated at some companies, there are substantial reports of higher-than-normal turnover and others declaring their intention to leave the industry or seek employment in the provincially regulated sector over the impending mandate at the border and the recently announced domestic mandate impacting the federally regulated trucking sector.”

Industry vaccination rates remain reflective of the Canadian national average as well as the regional provincial averages of 83-87 per cent. The industry is expecting a loss of 12,000-16,000 (10-15%) cross-border commercial drivers if the mandate takes effect this month, with higher or lower losses in capacity in certain regions depending on the location of companies. The enforcement of a federal domestic vaccine mandate on drivers could lead to as many as 30,000 Canadian federally regulated drivers exiting the supply chain.

As the ripple effects of the mandate announcements and the aggravated driver shortage moves through the supply chain, shippers and their customers have been intensifying their pursuit of trucking capacity over the holiday season. Consequently, this has led carriers to prioritize various customer bases, which has left some sectors of the economy far more vulnerable to the loss of transportation services and disruption to their operations.

CTA members report that the pre-existing driver shortage combined with the impending mandates has customers old and new scrambling for truck capacity. Some of that demand in certain regions or types of sectors simply cannot be met by fleets already struggling to fill seats and who are losing more drivers in reaction to the mandates. Certain sectors and regions of the Canadian economy will be disproportionately disrupted once these mandates are in effect.

CTA members also report preliminary negligible health and safety impacts on their driver pool as the result of Omicron variant. This is consistent with previous waves of COVID-19 in the trucking industry, which has vaccination rates consistent with national/provincial averages. CTA believes there are several reasons for low rates of contraction and penetration in the trucking industry, namely that proven health and safety protocols developed by the industry are working well and promoted extensively throughout the supply chain; high national vaccination rates among drivers already in the industry; as well as the self-isolating nature of the commercial driver occupation.

CTA continues to caution the Government of Canada that implementing a domestic mandate on federally regulated carriers and their employees will further exacerbate the driver shortage, disruption to the supply chain and rising costs on consumers.

“CTA and our member companies have worked closely with the Government of Canada throughout the COVID pandemic to prevent the spread of the disease throughout the supply chain and this cooperative relationship has helped make the industry safer,” said Laskowski. “CTA strongly believes the health benefits of vaccines are unquestionable. But that does not change the fact that any substantial reduction of commercial drivers, when there’s already an acute shortage, would further disrupt a very fragile supply chain and the economy. Simply put, the supply chain desperately needs more drivers to deliver goods and products that consumers depend on – not less.”

CTA expects an official announcement shortly on the application of the domestic mandate on the federally regulated trucking sector. The Alliance is again calling on the Government of Canada to maintain the position it agreed upon in the summer of 2021 of exempting the trucking industry as an essential service due to the potential consequences to the economy.

At a minimum, Ottawa must exempt commercial truck drivers, mechanics and those who work outdoors from the domestic mandate, CTA says.

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