COVID-19 vaccine requirements for foreign truckers at the U.S.-Canada border still could cause supply-chain disruptions if both countries do not decide to allow exemptions, the head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday, Canada dropped a vaccine mandate for Canadian truckers returning home from the United States that was supposed to kick in on Saturday, but unvaccinated non-Canadians will still be turned back at the border.
The United States has signalled, without providing details, that foreign truck drivers will have to show proof of inoculation to enter the United States starting on Jan. 22.
So if both countries keep their respective bans on unvaccinated foreign drivers, thousands will be taken off the roads, creating the first policy measure since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.
“Canada has exempted its own drivers from its border vaccine mandate, but this change will have a very limited impact,” said Bob Costello, a senior vice president and the chief economist at the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
“Canada’s rules will prevent U.S. drivers from entering Canada, and our proposed rules will prevent unvaccinated Canadians from entering the U.S.,” Costello said in a statement.
Costello said he fully expects both countries to enforce the mandates, but he urged “leaders in Ottawa and Washington to reconsider these mandates so we can avoid any further economic disruptions.”
“We’re asking both countries to work together to remove their foreign national (vaccine) mandate and look for a better date to put this in place,” Stephen Laskowski, president and chief executive of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), told Reuters.
The trucking industry carries more than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($521 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States.
The CTA estimates that 10% to 20%, or between 12,000-22,000 of Canadian truck drivers, and 40%, or some 16,000, of U.S. truck drivers travelling into Canada would be sidelined by mandates.
Supply chain disruptions drove Canada’s headline inflation to an 18-year high in November, and the Bank of Canada has signalled that it could raise interest rates to counter rising prices as soon as April.
In the United States, inflation rose at its fastest pace year-to-year in nearly four decades in December.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s pandemic-related vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses, including for trucking companies with more than 100 employees. But that is a separate measure from the border requirement due to take effect later this month.
Both the ATA and the CTA argue that the nature of trucking means that drivers stay mostly isolated from the general public, and that has meant low coronavirus infection rates among drivers.
Canada’s border agency and the ministry of public safety, which oversees the border, did not comment when asked about potential exemptions for foreign drivers.
The White House declined to immediately comment.
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