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Truckers warn vaccine mandates will disrupt supply chains

Posted On: Dec. 3, 2021 12:23 PM CST


(Reuters) — The main trucking lobbies in the United States and Canada are warning that vaccine and testing requirements for workers will further disrupt supply chains because there is already a dire shortage of drivers.

The Biden administration has issued rules requiring truck drivers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, while Canada will require vaccines for truck drivers starting in January.

More than two-thirds of goods traded between Canada and the United States travel on roads and highways. For most of the pandemic, truckers crossed the border regularly as they were considered essential workers to keep supply chains flowing.

“We know that there already is disruption in the supply chain; this is going to intensify it,” said Stephen Laskowski, president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents some 4,500 carriers.

It estimates that 10-20%, or 12,000-22,000 of Canadian truck drivers, and 40%, or some 16,000, of U.S. truck drivers traveling into Canada would be sidelined if the requirement begins.

“This is not a trucking issue. This is a Canada-U.S. economic issue,” Mr. Laskowski told Reuters, adding about 70% of the C$650 billion ($507 billion) U.S.-Canada trade moves by truck.

The American Trucking Associations, together with others, is seeking to block U.S. President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate in court.

A U.S. appeals court issued a temporary stay last month blocking the requirements. The court found “all else equal, a 28-year-old trucker spending the bulk of his workday in the solitude of his cab is simply less vulnerable to COVID-19 than a 62-year-old prison janitor.”

The Justice Department has asked another court to throw out the temporary stay, and a decision could come as soon as mid-December.

Supply chain problems caused by the pandemic have contributed to inflation in both countries rising to decades high.

“Given the nature of our industry and makeup of our workforce, (it) could have devastating impacts on the supply chain and the economy,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement.

In written comments filed with the Labor Department, the ATA said the nation's motor carriers could lose up to 37% of their drivers to “retirements, attrition to smaller carriers and/or conversion to independent contractor owner-operators.”