‘It’s Misguided’: Vaccine Requirement for Truckers at Canada-US Border Disrupting Supply Chain, Critics Say

By Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
January 17, 2022 Updated: January 19, 2022

The Canadian and U.S. governments are imposing new COVID-19 vaccination requirements on truckers, a decision critics say can only drive up costs, slow border traffic, and hinder supply chains.

Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, believes the government has not assessed the risks and benefits properly.

“I really don’t know why they’re doing this. Maybe it’s the notion of inequity between the modes because they forced the airlines and the railways to make sure that they have all their people vaccinated, and they think they have to do this for trucking. But it’s misguided,” Prentice said in an interview.

“If you’re just in your cab, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

Effective Jan. 15, foreign truck drivers can only enter Canada if fully vaccinated, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Nov. 19, 2021.

Similar requirements, effective Jan. 22, were made for non-U.S. national truckers crossing into the United States, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Nov. 23.

Prentice says his recent analysis of posted prices suggests that the move represents a $500 premium on goods transported on a dry van or flatbed across the American border versus goods shipped the same distance in Canada. He predicts produce prices will rise.

“At the margin it’s going to cause rates to go up, and it’s going to cause the quantity of goods coming in to go down. That’s a pretty easy forecast,” Prentice said.

“What it seems the government people don’t understand is that without trucking we’d all go pretty hungry. We depend on [truckers]. They’re as important to the economy and our health as nurses are.”

‘Fine Balance’

Ron Foxcroft, president and CEO of Fluke Transportation Group in Hamilton, believes the policy will hinder supply chains more than any virus. His company, specializing in transportation, warehousing, and distribution, has 125 trucks and 500 trailers shipping to groceries, big box stores, and pharmacies. The Order of Canada recipient also founded Fox 40 International Inc., which ships sporting and marine products to sports leagues, militaries, and police in 140 countries.

“We’ve got two employees that are not vaxxed. And God bless them and I respect them, and I’m not going to try and change their mind or argue with them,” Foxcroft told The Epoch Times, adding that he himself is triple-vaxxed.

“Our truck drivers are in their truck. They live in their truck. They work in their truck. Their office is in their truck, and they wear a mask. They are not COVID spreaders. We are the least COVID spreader industry on this planet.”

Nevertheless, Foxcroft predicts slower traffic as officials verify the legitimacy of vaccine passports at the border, only adding to the hassles of recent years.

“Since the pandemic started, our costs in trucking have skyrocketed. You’re already aware of fuel costs. But all the equipment that we need to operate by the rules, the hand sanitizers, the triple-layered Fox 40 masks, and so on, the social distancing, it costs more money to operate,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve weighed the fine balance between keeping North America safe and feeding North America. Now, what this law is going to do [is] put the prices of essential services, including groceries, up skyrocketing.”

Foxcroft hopes the government will reconsider and offer a reprieve, even if it’s only temporary.

“I resist dumping on the government, but I will say this: You’re given two ears and one mouth. Use proportionately, government,” he said.

“Give our trucking industry on both sides of the border a six-month exemption from this law for us to make changes, alterations, strategic direction, hiring, recruitment and retention strategies.”

‘Slack in the Industry’

On Jan. 11, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) released data from Trucking HR Canada and Statistics Canada that showed an 8 percent vacancy rate in the third quarter of 2021, the second-highest vacancy rate in the country trailing only the accommodations and food services sector. The current trucker vacancy, 22,990 jobs, is a historic high, and the CTA estimates 12,000 to 16,000 truckers could leave the industry due to the vaccine mandate.

Canadian Jim Leis is an owner-operator of his own refrigerated truck but leases his services to a Toronto-based company full time. He also opposes the policy but is unsure how noticeable the short-term effect will be.

“Virtually every driver I know is running less, is working less, than they did before COVID. There’s a lot of slack in the industry, there just is. And the supply chain’s already screwed up, so if some drivers decide not to go to the States anymore, I’m not sure how much that’s going to matter,” Leis said.

On Jan. 14, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Biden’s administration’s mandate that U.S. companies with 100 or more employees require workers to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. In addition, OSHA said the vaccine mandate would not apply to solo truckers and other employees “who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present.”

Nevertheless, the mandate still applies to team drivers and, since it’s a border restriction, isn’t affected by the Supreme Court ruling, according to The Wall Street Journal. As such, the new entry requirement remains for both countries, something the double-vaccinated Leis calls “silly.”

“Once you get out of the big cities, everybody kind of ignores it down there. … New York state’s supposedly locked down. If I go into a receiver or a truck stop or somewhere in New York state, I don’t wear a mask. Hardly anybody does,” Leis says.

“So in other words, the world is different … but in Ontario, everybody’s freaked out about it up here.”

Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.