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As of Jan. 15 new, tougher COVID-19 vaccine requirements took place for people to cross from the U.S. into Canada. That applies to truck drivers and other essential workers.
It is expected similar requirements will take effect in the U.S. on Jan. 22 as the Department of Homeland Security implements its requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and encourage more people to become vaccinated.
“On Nov. 19, 2021, we announced that as of Jan. 15, 2022, certain categories of travelers who are currently exempt from entry requirements will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada,” said a Jan. 13 statement from the Canadian Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Safety. “These groups include several essential service providers, including truck drivers. Let us be clear: This has not changed. 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.”
However, the two national ministries emphasized one point.
“A Canadian truck driver who is not fully vaccinated can’t be denied entry into Canada — Canadian citizens, persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act and permanent residents may enter Canada by right.”
Leaders with the Canadian Trucking Alliance met with government officials Jan. 14 and afterward released a statement that said Canadian truck drivers who choose not to be vaccinated will be subject to additional requirements if they try to return to their home country.
“Unvaccinated truck drivers arriving at the Canadian border starting Jan. 15 will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Canada,” the statement said.
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Officials also outlined the process which must occur when an unvaccinated Canadian driver enters Canada after being issued a quarantine order.
“If an unvaccinated truck driver returns to Canada with a shipment, they will be required to complete their commercial movement and then head directly to their address as indicated on their quarantine plan. No other pickups/drop-offs will be permitted once they enter the country. The repositioning of an empty trailer while on route to their quarantine location will be permissible,” CTA said.
American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello told Transport Topics that with Canada’s vaccination requirements taking effect, and a likely U.S. plan beginning in a matter of days, he is concerned there could be a shortage of some goods.
“Governments, you know, both the U.S. and Canadian governments have to be prepared that this is the route they’re choosing, which is they need to be prepared, be prepared to see real impacts on their sides of the border,” Costello said. “I’m talking about, you know, potentially more food shortages because of this, potentially energy shortages, because of this and potentially, you know, manufacturing shortages and so forth.”
With freight levels in the U.S. remaining strong, Costello said what he believes could happen is that domestic trucking firms with cross-border trips into and out of Canada will instead focus primarily on U.S. freight.
“They will turn down freight going into Canada because they don’t have enough [vaccinated drivers], or at least some of the freight. And they will just pivot to domestic freight because there’s no longer a vaccine mandate domestically,” he said. “ There’s plenty of domestic freight to haul.”
Costello said that while the recent Supreme Court decision on vaccination mandates from Jan. 13 is not directly tied to the border situation, the high court’s ruling striking down the OSHA rule will be something the trucking industry notices immediately.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to mandate vaccines or weekly tests for businesses with at least 100 workers.
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“It absolutely will impact it operationally, because now there’s no concern about having a domestic mandate,” he said. “So, if those drivers don’t get vaccinated, they’ll just move on to move freight domestically instead of running into Canada. And there’s enough freight to go around, so it absolutely makes sense.”
The Canadian Trucking Alliance said it has requested an exemption from fines and penalties and quarantine for these returning Canadian truck drivers, but federal officials have indicated that enforcement of health measures, including mandatory quarantine will be enforced. However, flexibility could be used on other enforcement policies for these drivers.
A Nov. 23 announcement from DHS 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.