The US Department of Homeland Security made waves in Canada’s trucking industry with their October 12 announcement that, in early January 2022, Canadian truck drivers will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the USA through a land border crossing.
Up to this point in the pandemic, truck drivers have been exempt from a variety of public health restrictions due to their status as essential workers. Relief has been provided for fourteen-day quarantine rules and other restrictions that would dramatically hinder the work routine of a truck driver; these exemptions were issued due to the negative consequences of slowing down truck transportation and trade.
Homeland Security’s announcement marks a deviation from earlier exemptions for the trucking industry. Since vaccinations provide COVID-19 protection without requiring a trucker to take time away from work – besides the time needed to get the shot – there is potentially less impact to trade from such a rule. However, this is assuming still-unvaccinated cross-border truck drivers are willing to comply with such a rule.
Trucking companies worried about additional impacts to an already tight labour market have spoken out against the rule. Other organisations favour vaccination mandates, while others wait to see if the Homeland Security promise will be upheld. As 2022 approaches, this story will be of significant interest to Canadian trucking companies with US operations.