Ever increasing vaccination mandates on essential workers, by both private businesses and governments alike, are causing severe shortages in an already depleted workforce. This is especially true in the supply chain, where severe shortages in workers are prevalent in marine, air, rail, and of course, the first and last mile of each supply chain movement, truck drivers. On October 30th, the federal government’s 1st phase of its mandatory vaccination program for federally regulated workers in the air, rail and marine industry began, and will come into full effect on November 30th. backgrounder. As of this date, if you are not double vaccinated, you will be unable to work in these three sectors, with some limited exemptions.
To date, ground transportation workers, including professional truck drivers, have been exempt from this requirement in Canada. While Canadian governments have exempted essential ground transportation workers from the vaccination requirements, many private companies have not. In an industry, that according to a recent Trucking HR Canada survey indicated had 18,000 vacancies, any reduction in the workforce is extremely problematic.
To be clear, I personally, and the PMTC Board, are in full support of people getting vaccinated. We believe in the science and the medical experts who tell us vaccinations are our best way out of this pandemic. We encourage everyone who can, to get vaccinated as soon as possible, for the health and safety of all of us. With this said, no matter how much we encourage this, a certain percentage of the population will not get double vaccinated. While this may be unfortunate, it is a reality. Recent numbers from Health Canada indicate 84.25% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. If we assume these numbers can be translated to the truck driver workforce, this means any customer, or government vaccine mandate, will eliminate roughly 16% of the eligible workforce. Canada employs roughly 300,000 truck drivers, meaning 48,000 drivers may be out of work. While you may not have sympathy for someone who chooses not to get vaccinated, are you ready for the effect this will have on your life?
Throughout the pandemic, drivers continued to work, to ensure that the goods we needed, while many of us sheltered in place, were there for us. Drivers supply the fuel for our vehicles, heating fuels for our homes, food, medicines, blood, medical supplies, and many more of the essential items we require, and many non-essential items we have become used to.
Drivers, by the very nature of their job, are isolated most of the day. They are isolated in their truck, and in many cases, when they make deliveries, come in direct contact with almost no one. Paperwork is either done electronically or via other physical distancing measures. In addition, the transportation industry has put in place many protocols since the beginning of the pandemic, to ensure the safety of their workforce, and as a result, very limited spread of Covid-19 has been attributed to drivers. While many industries may require a vaccine mandate to keep workers and the public safe, the job of a truck driver is way down the list.
There was a time when every time we went to the store, everything we needed was there, shelfs and stockrooms were full. In our pandemic world, almost every time we go to a store now, we see an empty shelve, out of supply, waiting to be replenished. While allot of these shortages are a result of supply chain issues that do not involve a driver, a significant portion of the shortages are still attributed to a truck sitting empty waiting for a driver to fill it. You think we have shortage issues now, wait until we eliminate 15-20% of the workforce…
To make matters worse, recently the US Department of Homeland Security announced that starting in January, essential workers entering the US by land will also need to provide proof of double vaccination to enter. This includes truck drivers. 70% of the 700 billion in trade between Canada and the US is moved by truck. 120,000 Canadians are involved in cross border movements, and 40,000 US drivers. Based on vaccination numbers in both countries, we are likely to see roughly 20,000 Canadian drivers and 16,000 US drivers removed from the cross-border freight industry. This will have a dramatic effect on supplies and services reaching their destination and getting in the hands of those who need them. In a time where our supply chain is already disrupted, eliminating this many workers from the most critical stage of the supply chain, is simply not something we can afford as a society. Think this is hyperbole? One needs to look no further than the recent UK fuel shortage, where the military had to be brought in to deliver fuel as a result of a lack of truck drivers. If the shortage becomes food, blood, medicine or medical supplies….we really have an issue.
If you are concerned about vaccination mandates for truck drivers, I encourage you to reach out to your local MP or MPP to make your concerns known. To raise your concerns about the US DHS essential traveler vaccine mandate, reach out to The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security. Alejandro.firstname.lastname@example.org, and Deborah W. Meyers, Director, Canadian affairs, US Dept. of Homeland Security, Deborah.email@example.com
One last note, to anyone who has not yet received your vaccine, I encourage you to seek the guidance of a medical professional, ask questions, do your research with those who are the experts in their field, and if safe to do so, please get your vaccine!