Some Maritime experts say COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers couldn't have come at a worse time
Beginning Saturday, Canada will require all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination as part of its fight against COVID-19.
Cross-border trade between Canada and the United States is worth $650 billion annually.
“It’s our biggest trading partner. There’s a truck that crosses the line every five seconds,” says Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Trucking Association.
According to Picard, the percentage of truck drivers that are fully vaccinated is similar to the general population, close to 85 per cent.
He says the concern is that operators who oppose vaccines will find another line of work, leaving an already short-staffed industry scrambling to fill empty seats behind the wheel.
“We don’t have that luxury... If we lose five drivers tomorrow, we don’t have the luxury of hiring five more, that’s the problem,” Picard says.
Sylvain Charlebois, director of the agri-food and analytics lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, calculates Canada buys about $21 billion worth of agri-food products from the U.S. each year.
“This is the worst time to actually have a vaccine mandate,” says Charlebois. “A lot of the trade actually does happen between November and March, so we do rely on the border very much to get the food we need over the winter months."
Jeremy Nichols, who runs a 12-week driver training school which graduates 100 to 110 students each year, says part of the solution could be to recruit more fully vaccinated truck drivers.
“We are requiring vaccination of all of our students starting Jan. 17,” says Nichols.
Nichols admits the new policy doesn't sit well with some.
“Most understand and it’s not a problem. We have had a few students or prospective students that have decided not to pursue their training,” Nichols says.
Once the mandate comes into effect, unvaccinated Canadian truckers can still cross the border but will need to isolate for 14 days upon their return.
Unvaccinated American drivers will not be allowed to enter Canada at all.