Border delays expected as vaccine mandate goes into effect for truck drivers

Chaos, confusion and delays are anticipated at border crossings this weekend when a vaccine mandate comes into effect for all truckers entering Canada.

Starting Saturday, Canadian truckers and their American counterparts must be vaccinated if they want to avoid quarantine and a pre-arrival molecular test.

“Absolute chaos,” says Joe Marchand, a Windsor trucker who crossed the Ambassador Bridge Friday afternoon. “Thankfully, I don’t work weekends!”

Marchand and several industry experts are expressing concern that this week's confusion on the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers may leave some drivers, who were under the impression they would be exempt, stuck if they can’t arrive in Canada before midnight Friday.

“I have a friend that has one shot. He’s Canadian. Majority of the time he lives in the U.S., he’s got a delivery going out east and he needs to be across before midnight tonight or he’s not getting it there, and unfortunately for him, if he gets in, great! If he doesn’t? I don’t feel no empathy for you.”

Marchand says he expects long lines and wait times despite initial word of a new vaccine mandate coming last November. 

“Being cross-border drivers, we’re the lifeline of the country, along with health care workers we should have been on that top list of that priority of being vaccinated, but you knew it was coming. How would you not do anything to do your due diligence.”

“Our responsibility is to do our job and get the freight moved. We have to be safe about it, we have to be smart about it and those that haven’t been are going to be that ones that suffer,” Marchand adds.

Meantime, the former director of the Michigan Trucking Association, Mickey Blashfield says the border crossing restrictions that require vaccination to come into Canada serve as another barrier to returning to normal within the freight and transportation system.

“We’re putting yet another obstacle to allowing the transportation industry to resolve this issue once and for all,” Blashfield says.

The transportation consultant with 30 years’ experience in trucking and cross-border issues tells CTV News industry officials hope the government will reconsider the mandates to avoid any further economic disruptions, noting there is already a shortage of 80,000 truckers.

“They need to adapt to the current situation,” says Blashfield. “When we put these artificial, not up to date restrictions on the border, it’s only going to intensify the things that we know are a problem today. It’s going to be the consumers that are impacted by this.”

Fraser Johnson, Leenders Supply Chain Management Association Chair at the Ivey Business School agrees, explaining consumers can anticipate continued price increases. “I think what we’re going to see is increased shortages and higher costs.”

Johnson says he’s heard of some business attempt to stockpile product in anticipation of the vaccine mandate at the border, but suggests some like automotive manufacturers and grocers simply can’t.

“Your vegetables might not be as fresh as they normally are,” Johnson adds. “For the automotive industry, especially the automotive parts manufacturers, this is going to create problems for them because they’re used to relying on a just in time environment.”