Canada Drops Vaccine Mandate For Truckers After Pressure From Industry

FILE PHOTO: Manitoba-based truckers, transporting goods to and from the United States, are vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of a deal between the Canadian province and North Dakota near Drayton, ND, April 21. REUTERS/Dan Koeck

(Reuters) — Canada will allow unvaccinated Canadian truckers to cross in from the United States, reversing a decision requiring all truckers to be inoculated against the coronavirus, Canada’s border agency said on Wednesday (Jan. 12).

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had faced pressure from the main opposition party and trucking lobby to drop the vaccine mandate for truckers, due to come into force today (Jan. 15), saying it could result in driver shortages, disrupt trade, and drive up inflation.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers arriving at the U.S.-Canada border will remain exempt from pre-arrival, arrival, and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements.

However, truckers from the United States will still need to be vaccinated or they will be turned back at the border, a CBSA spokesperson said.

A Canadian government source said the decision was taken to ensure smooth supply chains.

Trudeau's liberal government had set the Jan. 15 deadline requiring all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination as part of its fight against COVID-19.

With more than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($511 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travelling on roads, the trucking industry is key.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) had estimated the government mandate could force some 16,000 cross-border drivers— 10 % of them — off the roads.

The mandate was the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.

Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains open.

Supply chain disruptions drove Canada's headline to an 18-year high in November, and the Bank of Canada has signaled that it could raise interest rates as soon as April.

The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California and Arizona to Canada doubled during the pandemic here due to a driver shortage, Steve Bamford, chief executive of Bamford Produce, an importer and exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables based in Ontario told Reuters last week.

Fresh foods are sensitive to freight problems because they expire rapidly.

The Biden administration wants truck drivers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, a policy was successfully challenged to the Supreme Court.

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