‘Nearly everything we buy will be affected’: About 12,000 Canadian truckers won’t be fully vaccinated by deadline

With just days to go until the deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, thousands of Canadian truckers are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

That shortfall risks turning a supply chain already battered by the global pandemic into even greater chaos, industry experts say.

“Almost everything we buy is going to be affected in some way,” said Fraser Johnson, a professor of business management at Western University’s Ivey School of Business.

Manufacturers could face assembly-line delays, retailers face emptier shelves and higher prices, and products could end up spoiling if they get stuck at the border, said Johnson, one of the leading supply chain analysts in the US. Canada.

“It will definitely mean some empty shelves. Will we get through this? Yes. But will we notice? Absolutely,” Johnson said, adding that roughly $1.7 billion in goods cross the Canada-U.S. border by truck every day.

The head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance estimated that at least 12,000 Canadian truckers, 10 percent of the total, currently crossing the border from one side to the other, will not be fully vaccinated before the deadline. Truckers entering Canada must be fully vaccinated by Saturday, while truckers entering the US are due January 21.

Since the Canadian government announced its mandate in mid-November, there has been little change despite warnings that 12,000 Canadian truckers will no longer be able to cross, CTA Chairman Stephen Laskowski said.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with the federal government, but there’s no sign of a change in policy,” said Laskowski, who would like to see implementation of the vaccination mandate delayed.

“We need the government to work with our clients to find a date that allows them to have a smooth transition. We need to do it in a way that makes the transition as seamless as possible,” Laskowski said, stressing that he is not against the mandate itself.

“Look, we understand why the government is doing this. We are in favor of vaccines. We realize that it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. There are only a handful of countries around the world that don’t have a mandate right now,” Laskowski said.

Consumers can expect to pay a higher price for fruits and vegetables due to fewer truckers, said Steve Bamford, president of Bamford Produce. Fewer truckers means fewer products crossing the border, said Bamford, a veteran produce wholesaler.

“Any time you remove 10 to 20 percent of the drivers in your ability to cross the border, there will be a supply problem. … Year after year, we are already paying a premium. This will only amplify that,” Bamford said.

Canadian manufacturers face a double whammy: supplies come to Canada from the US and finished goods go the other way.

“We are sitting here with this deadline approaching. Everybody is worried,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

That concern is especially acute for smaller manufacturers who may be relegated to the priority list if trucking companies have to choose which customers to serve, Darby said.

“Small and medium-sized companies are the least leveraged,” Darby said.

The global pandemic has changed the way manufacturers look at almost everything they do, Darby said, including previously unchallenged ideas like just-in-time delivery.

“What this whole pandemic has done is everyone is taking a hard look at their supply chain,” Darby said.

Retailers have already faced a supply chain crisis. Taking thousands of truckers out of the mix will make it even worse, said Michelle Wasylyshen, a spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada.

“Retailers are concerned about the ripple effect throughout the supply chain, especially in transportation, which is compounding the problem of labor shortages,” Wasylyshen said. “With the vaccine mandate for truckers coming into force…trucking associations have predicted that a significant number of truckers will stop all cross-border travel, which (the retail council) fears will also result in another spike in freight costs as further disruption to supply chains.”


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