Cross-Border Trucking: Vaccine Mandates Not Slowing US-Canada Freight
US and Canadian shippers appear to have dodged the trucking delays that were feared when the two countries imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates on drivers crossing their borders, but shipping costs are still expected to rise, putting inflationary pressure on the price of some goods in Canada. Action by carriers and shippers before Canada and the US imposed vaccine mandates diluted their impact.
“The freight is moving, and we are not experiencing any delays,” Gary Fast, vice president of transportation at Toronto-based retailer Canadian Tire, said Tuesday. Canada imposed a vaccine mandate on US truckers crossing the border Jan. 15, and a similar US mandate on Canadian and Mexican drivers took effect Jan. 22. Canadian trucking organizations warned of potential delays.
“We are seeing carrier refusal rates climb; however, we don’t know if it is more related to Omicron or the vaccine mandate,” Fast said in an email. “That is causing us some additional costs in having to use higher-priced carriers; however, it is not material in the same way that the US ELD (electronic logging device) mandate was in 2018.” That mandate lengthened many US-Canada shipment transit times.
Cross-border truck volumes between the US and Canada have been rising, with Canadian imports from the US rising 4.9 percent to $35.4 billion in November, following a 7.7 percent increase in October, according to Statistics Canada. Those numbers include “domestic” goods that originate in the US but ultimately are assembled from components sourced overseas and shipped by container line.
Prior to the mandates, many trucking companies took pains to ensure their cross-border drivers were vaccinated, including Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL). “We cross the border in numerous places, and fortunately we’ve got enough vaccinated drivers to keep the flow going,” ODFL CEO Greg Gantt said at the SMC3 JumpStart22 trucking industry conference in Atlanta on Monday.
US truckload carrier CFI also organized a group of vaccinated drivers in Detroit to handle its freight moving across the busiest US-Canada border crossing. Proactive steps such as these have helped keep cross-border trucks moving. The Canadian Trucking Alliance claims the vaccination rate among truck drivers closely mirrors that of the general public in Canada — about 77 percent.
However, convoys of hundreds of truckers are driving toward the capital city of Ottawa in Ontario to protest Canada’s vaccine mandate, which requires unvaccinated Canadian drivers to quarantine upon returning from the US. Canada is also considering a federal vaccine mandate for truck drivers and other essential workers within Canada. A broad vaccine mandate in the US was blocked by courts.
By: William B Cassidy / JOC