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More stringent COVID-19 vaccine requirements set to take effect at the borders may put new pressure on freight traffic between the United States and Canada, experts said.
A Canadian mandate is set to take effect Jan. 15.
“All drivers and truck drivers going into Canada will have to show proof of vaccination in order to be able to go into Canada, whether they’re an essential worker or not,” American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello told Transport Topics. “So this applies to truck drivers.”
A Nov. 23 announcement from the Department of Homeland Security did not give a specific date when the new U.S. rules will go into effect, but Costello said it is expected they will start Jan. 22.
“All inbound foreign national travelers seeking to enter the United States via land points of entry or ferry terminals — whether for essential or nonessential reasons — must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination,” the DHS bulletin said.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the border, but fleets need to prepare,” Costello said. “We have a very tight labor market. So my concern is even if a small percentage of these drivers say, ‘That’s it, I’m done,’ or fleets look at their freight crossings and say, ‘We have to try to find drivers that are vaccinated to go into Canada now,’ are they going to be able to do that and get enough? I mean, it’s not easy.”
Officials with the Canadian Trucking Alliance are worried about the mandate and its impact on cross-border freight.
“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,” CTA President Stephen Laskowski said. “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.”
CTA said the industry’s vaccination rate in Canada is close to the national average, between 83% and 87%. CTA estimates that 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.
Costello estimates there are 28,000 full-time equivalent Canadian and U.S. drivers who do cross-border runs regularly.
Please check the FMCSA International Safety Programs webpage for more information on Transport Canada’s requirement to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement effective January 15, 2022. https://t.co/pqEMNtaacP pic.twitter.com/9MY1KEwAVl— FMCSA (@FMCSA) January 13, 2022
“U.S. companies need to prepare for [Jan.] 15 and on the Canadian side, [Jan.] 22,” Costello said.
A November survey of nearly 1,200 truck drivers by recruitment firm Conversion Interactive Agency found that almost 55% of U.S. drivers had received the COVID-19 vaccination while 36% said they had no intention of receiving it. At the time, about 9% had not received a shot but planned to do so.
According to the latest data from the Census Department, trade between the U.S. and Canada accounted for 14.5% and $640 billion.
If the new vaccination requirements do take place, DHS officials are warning travelers that at least initially, border crossing times likely will increase.
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