Crossing border vaccine requirement will exact economic toll: truckers

MONTREAL — Truckers warn that a deadline this week requiring them to be vaccinated before entering Canada is straining already struggling supply chains amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.

Big rig drivers and other essential workers seeking to cross into Canada must be fully vaccinated as of Saturday, and will be turned away — or, if they’re Canadian, required to quarantine — if they can’t present proof.

Stephen Laskowski, heads of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, says about 10 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian big-riggers who traverse the border may not be able to work those routes because they’re unvaccinated.

American Trucking Association chief economist Bob Costello estimates that just under half of the 28,000 US drivers who regularly haul freight across the border will also no longer be able to, posing a further threat to the smooth supply of food, fuel and automotive parts.

The federal Conservatives as well as trade groups representing oil, manufacturing and export companies are calling on Ottawa to postpone the Saturday deadline, which was announced in mid-November.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it will have “mechanisms” in place to facilitate cross-border trucking, but that it “will not compromise the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times.”

Ted Daniel, CEO of Ontario-based Titanium Transportation Group, which boasts a fleet of 800 tractors, says 95 per cent of his drivers are fully vaccinated.

“More than likely there’s no good time, right? They’ve had this exemption for quite a long time. So maybe this is the right time,” he said.