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Truckers OK with new COVID-19 vaccination policy but call for delay: Atlantic association

Click to play video: 'Atlantic truckers respond to change in vaccination requirements' Atlantic truckers respond to change in vaccination requirements
WATCH: Truckers will soon no longer be exempt from federal vaccination requirements to enter Canada. The industry worries about the impact the mandate will have given the ongoing labour challenges. But as Callum Smith reports, it’s tough to tell how many drivers will have to change course – Jan 4, 2022

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.

Read more: Growing number of trucker vacancies adds to ‘tremendous’ supply chain pressures

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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.

“Even if you come to Canada, I’m not sure about the [U.S.], but yeah, in Canada, most shippers and receivers — they ask, if you want to enter the premises, you have to be vaccinated.”

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.

Read more: A trucking business is offering $10,000 to vaccinated drivers before deadline

But it can be difficult to quantify this blow to the industry now because only those doing cross-border trips would be directly impacted.

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“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.

Click to play video: 'Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals' Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals
Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals – Jan 3, 2022

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