Truckers Warn Canada's Vaccine Mandate Will Affect 10 Percent of Cross-Border Workforce

Truck drivers are warning that Canada's latest vaccine mandate will affect 10 percent of the industry's cross-border workforce in a move that may exacerbate staffing shortages and cause further supply chain issues.

A new federal mandate from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will require truck drivers crossing the border from the U.S. side to provide proof of vaccination beginning January 15. A similar mandate will go into place for drivers crossing from the Canadian side on January 22.

Unvaccinated American drivers will be turned back, while unvaccinated Canadian drivers will be allowed into the country but required to complete a 14-day quarantine.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that 10 percent of cross-border drivers, or 16,000 employees will be forced off the roads once the rules take effect. The group told Reuters that the industry is already short by roughly 18,000 drivers.

Other industry experts are expecting the number of affected drivers to go even higher than 16,000, ballparking figures at about the 20,000 mark.

A national survey conducted by the Women's Trucking Federation of Canada found that 56 percent of respondents said they will not get vaccinated in response to the mandate.

"For some of them, it's been too much miscommunication. For some, [they say], 'We've been doing this for over two years, I haven't gotten COVID. I'm in a truck all by myself.' And for others, it's a case of religious beliefs," Shelley Walker, president of the Women's Trucking Federation of Canada, told CBC.

Many worry the mandate will cause overflow effects on the delivery of foods, fuel, healthcare supplies among other goods.

Truck Driver Cross Border Canada U.S. Trade
This month, Canada will begin requiring cross-border truck drivers to be vaccinated. Trucks wait to cross the Bluewater Bridge border crossing from Sarnia, Ontario, to Port Huron Michigan on March 16, 2020. Geoff Robins/AFP

The new vaccine requirements will be the first measures restricting cross-border distribution trucks and comes as the Canadian government scrambles to respond to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Even when the border was closed in the first 20 months of the pandemic, truck drivers had been able to travel between Canada and the U.S. because they were considered essential to the supply chain.

More than two-thirds of the $511 billion of goods traded annually between the two countries is transported by road.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, the Canadian Ministry of Transportation thanked the trucking industry for its continued work during the pandemic but stopped short of making any exceptions for unvaccinated drivers.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to the trucking industry, and our Government recognizes the impact it is having on those working in the commercial vehicle and logistics sectors," a spokesperson for the ministry wrote. "The dedication and commitment of these workers has ensured the continued movement of goods and the ongoing delivery of essential services to Canadians across the country, and they have helped maintained access to essential goods and the economy during this difficult time."

"We would like to thank truckers, the trucking industry, other industry associations, and our provincial/territorial counterparts for their commitment to service and ongoing collaboration throughout these trying times," the statement continued. "Our Government is committed to continuing to work collaboratively to find solutions to logistical challenges that have emerged since the onset of the pandemic."