Truckers, previously deemed essential workers exempt from federal COVID-19 vaccination requirements, will soon lose their exemption if they want to enter Canada.
But the growing driver shortage is making things challenging, even if only a handful of drivers are barred from their regular routes.
“In today’s environment, it’s pretty bad out there,” says Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “Fleets have 10 per cent of their trucks parked because they can’t put anyone in the driver seat, which is unheard of.”
Ottawa is clamping down, announcing back in November that truckers will have to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 15 in order to enter Canada, similar to all other travellers.
Between 90 to 95 per cent of long-haulers at PEI-based Seafood Express Transport will be double-dosed by the deadline, says its CEO, Andy Keith. And while Keith says they’re certainly not forcing the vaccine on employees, it’ll create additional hurdles.
“It’s the drivers that aren’t willing to get it or aren’t able to get it,” Keith says. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to do everything we can to keep them busy on the domestic side of things, which is a challenge to begin with.”
But it’s tough to tell how many drivers will have to change course.
Still, the move might not have a huge impact, according to Yogeshwar Sharma, a trucker who stopped for a fill-up in Enfield Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Picard, the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association director, says trucker vaccination rates are similar to Atlantic Canada’s; those numbers range between 80 to 90 per cent fully inoculated.
But it can be difficult to quantify this blow to the industry now because only those doing cross-border trips would be directly impacted.
“The idea is good,” he says, “but I think we need more time to really get everyone on board and vaccinated, whether it’s another three months or whatnot.”
Picard suggests having vaccine clinics at the borders could make them more accessible for truckers.
But the already-strained supply chain and even further driver shortages mean it’ll only make the transportation of goods tighter.