Rural areas, agriculture may be hardest hit by trucker shortage with vaccine mandate

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Several of Canada’s key economic sectors are bracing for the impending cross-border vaccine mandate for truck drivers, scheduled to take effect on Saturday, January 15, 2022. On its heels is a second Canadian government mandate that would impact all federally-regulated employees, the implementation date of which has not been confirmed but is said to be slated for sometime this month.

Marco Beghetto, vice president of communications for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), explains that as of Saturday, drivers must show proof of vaccination to come into Canada. The mandate is expected to cause a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in available cross-border drivers.

“Vaccination rates among the trucking population mirror the general population,” Beghetto says, so in areas with higher rates of vaccination, the impact may be less pronounced.

However, he adds that it’s not just vaccination status that may cause delays at the Canada-U.S. border, as truckers must use the ArriveCan app when crossing. That added requirement alone has the CTA asking for more time or a grace period, giving truckers time to adapt to the new requirement.

As for the domestic mandate on the federally-regulated trucking sector, Beghetto says a set date has not yet been announced. Right now, the sector operates as an essential service, and has been exempted from some COVID-19 restrictions.

“If you thought shortages [of products] were bad before, just wait,” he says. (Story continues below)

Regional dynamics will play a significant role in the accessibility of trucking services. Areas with lower overall vaccine rates may find there are ample drivers available to move product locally, in light of the cross-border requirement. That said, commercial haulers facing a driver shortage will prioritize higher value, more densely populated routes, meaning more rural and remote areas, and those with lower value products to move, may find it a significant challenge to find trucks.

At a minimum, Ottawa must exempt commercial truck drivers, mechanics, and those who work outdoors from the domestic mandate, CTA says.

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