Thu. May 26th, 2022

David Phillips, truck driver and Long Combination Vehicle Instructor for Bison Transport, connects a double trailer to tourists during a snowstorm in Winnipeg on Friday, April 3, 2020.JOHN WOODS / The Globe and Mail

Truck companies are already feeling the effects of the federal government’s requirement for border vaccination, with a significant number of drivers leaving the company ahead of the new rule that went into effect over the weekend.

From Saturday, Canadian truck drivers must be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid quarantine when returning from the United States, while unvaccinated U.S. drivers are not allowed into Canada. Truckers had previously been exempted from border vaccination requirements as major service providers.

The new rule, which was announced in mid-November, has already had an impact on the workforce. Robert Penner, president and CEO of Winnipeg-based Bison Transportation, said his company lost close to 10 percent of its cross-border fleet of drivers after the announcement in November.

“This mandate has undoubtedly created challenges for our industry, and subsequently this will increase the cost of all goods coming from or destined for the United States,” said Mr. Pens in an email Sunday.

Bison, one of Canada’s largest haulage companies with 2,100 tractors and 6,000 trailers across North America, responded to the announcement by raising the wages of drivers who could cross into the United States and introducing a $ 2,500 sign-on bonus for vaccinated drivers who joined before on December 31st. , 2021.

“We have made significant investments in wages for those who are willing to continue to engage in cross-border trade. It has allowed us to stick with the majority of our people, but unfortunately, and as predicted, it has not inspired those who are not willing to vaccinate to change perspective, ”Mr. Penner said.

Mike Millian, chairman of Canada’s Private Motor Truck Council, said the proportion of Canadian drivers who regularly cross the border and who are not fully vaccinated could be as high as 20 percent. The figure could be even higher for U.S. drivers, he added. There are about 120,000 Canadian drivers and 40,000 U.S. drivers crossing the border on a regular basis, according to industry estimates.

Mr. Millian said the introduction of the vaccination requirement on Saturday does not appear to have affected waiting times at the border over the weekend. That said, he expects there will be delays in southbound traffic next weekend when the United States introduces a similar vaccine mandate.

“Our assumption is that it will be a paper process check. And if every driver who crosses the border has to show papers to prove they are vaccinated, it will slow things down,” Millian said of the U.S. rules.

The rollout of the new mandate has been messy. The truck industry was thrown into disarray last week when a spokesman for the Canadian Border Services Agency said truck drivers would be exempted from the vaccine requirement. The government turned the course the next day, saying the statement was “obtained by mistake.”

The flip-flop and the delay in correcting the error caused mass confusion, Mr. Millian, where companies sent unvaccinated drivers to the border in anticipation that the mandate would not take effect.

“This 16-hour period of silence has thrown many drivers’ lives in disarray and will leave some to be quarantined at home for 14 days as a result of an erroneous message from officials,” Mr. Millian in a letter to officials. which he delivered to The Globe and Mail.

Meanwhile, food and trade experts warn that the lack of cross-border truck drivers could exacerbate existing supply chain problems and increase inflation in the price of food and manufactured goods.

Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian manufacturers and exporters, said about $ 1.5 billion in goods travel between the U.S.-Canada border a day, and 80 percent of that goes by truck.

He said manufactured products, such as car parts or packaged foods, risk being in short supply as many materials such as ingredients and chemicals move back and forth from the border through various stages of the manufacturing process.

“Most manufacturing companies have been operating for decades now, as if the frontier does not exist,” he said. Darby. “That’s why, throughout the pandemic and in the early days, we spoke strongly for both governments to keep these supply lines open, even when you and I were limited to going back and forth.”

He said he supports the government’s efforts to encourage vaccination, but hopes the fallout will not be too severe for businesses and consumers.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food policy and distribution at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said Canadian consumers are more likely to feel the effects of supply chain problems than Americans, especially in grocery stores.

“It’s hard to understand why a vaccine mandate is wanted right now in the middle of winter,” said Professor Charlebois, adding that there is a greater dependence on the United States for things like products this season. “I think a delay would have been more appropriate.”

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