A trucking nightmare: supply chain horrors feared as thousands of unvaccinated drivers will not be allowed to cross the US-Canada border

The director of a trucking industry association says thousands of Canadian truckers will not be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, causing even greater chaos in a supply chain already weakened by the global pandemic.

“This is making a bad situation worse. It’s the perfect storm, ”said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

The United States announced a mid-January deadline for the vaccine mandate in mid-October. Last week, Canada announced a January 15 deadline for truckers to cross into this country.

According to reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 percent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross into the US may not be vaccinated by the deadline.

“Even if all the companies get their vaccination rates up to 90 percent, it’s still 12,000 drivers,” said Laskowski, calling on both governments to delay the deadline.

Those estimates are terrifying for people in industries as varied as fruit and vegetable imports to auto parts manufacturing, who say they could wreak havoc on an already faltering supply chain.

Steve Bamford, a board member for the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, predicted that the driver shortage will further push the already rising price of fruits and vegetables.

“The supply chain is already broken. You can’t take 20 percent of the workforce out of the mix and expect it to not have a major impact, ”said Bamford, a fourth-generation produce supplier.

Bamford estimates that the cost of shipping a truckload of fruits and vegetables from California to Toronto could double from its current range of $ 6,000 to $ 7,000.

“If there are 20% fewer drivers on the job, everyone is going to struggle to pay the rest more,” Bamford said, adding that increased shipping costs will be passed on to wholesale customers and eventually at the prices of local fruit. and vegetable stand.

“You have to pass those costs, or you’re going to go out of business pretty quickly,” Bamford said.

For Canada’s auto parts industry, trucking is vital, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association.

“Road transport is the lifeblood of our industry. Cars are shipped by rail, parts are shipped by truck, ”said Volpe, who estimated that nearly half of Canadian industry’s $ 35 billion output crosses the border.

“This is impacting the industry at a time when supply chains are experiencing the greatest difficulties they have had in a hundred years,” said Volpe.

Although some ports around the world are slowly beginning to unblock themselves from the mess they’ve been in during COVID, the global supply chain is far from getting back to normal, said Fraser Johnson, a professor at the Ivey School of Business. from Western University.

“Road and rail transport are becoming big bottlenecks. And increasing the driver shortage won’t help, ”said Johnson, who specializes in supply chain issues.

Johnson says the scale of cross-border trade is so great that even a small reduction in truck traffic could have significant economic consequences.

“The Detroit-Windsor Bridge has a billion dollars in freight crossing every day,” Johnson said.

CTA’s Laskowski agreed.

“This is not just a trucking industry problem. This is a problem in the North American economy. Each and every sector will be affected, from manufacturing to electronics, food and auto parts. ”


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