The Biden administration announced today that all “essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials” are required to be fully vaccinated by January 22, according to the Associated Press.
That includes, most notably, the longest land border between any two countries on the planet: the U.S.-Canada border. Headline from the Toronto Star: “A trucking nightmare: Supply chain horrors feared as thousands of unvaccinated drivers won’t be allowed to cross U.S.-Canada border.”
On Friday, Canada announced a vaccine requirement for truck drivers entering the True North strong and free, effective January 15. The Star talked to the president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, Stephen Laskowski, and he’s not optimistic:
Based on reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross into the U.S. might not be vaccinated by the time the deadline rolls around.
“Even if every single company gets their vaccination rates up to 90 per cent, that’s still 12,000 drivers,” said Laskowski, who’s calling on both governments to delay the deadline.
We need every driver we can get right now, and then some. In 2020, $309 billion of freight traveled by truck between the U.S. and Canada, which was 58.8 percent of all northern-border freight, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That was 9.9 percent less than 2019. Between the pandemic recovery and the surge in spending on goods, we can expect much more than $309 billion of truck freight for 2021. Steve Bamford of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association is quoted by the Star: “The supply chain is already broken. You can’t take 20 per cent of the workforce out of the mix and expect it not to have a major impact.”
The vaccines are good and safe, and people should get them. That doesn’t mean the federal government should mandate them, especially for truck drivers at the current moment. The administration’s priority should be waiving regulations on trucking, not adding more.
As for our other land border, with Mexico, this mandate will have little effect. As a protectionist measure to please U.S. labor unions, Mexican trucking companies are not allowed to operate freely in the U.S. When goods are shipped from Mexico to the United States, they are either transported the entire way by U.S. truckers or brought to the border by Mexican truckers and switched to a U.S. truck for the final leg of the journey.
From Pete Buttigieg blaming a lack of child care for the supply-chain crisis to Biden being more concerned with truck drivers’ vaccination status than the fact that we don’t have enough of them to begin with, it’s clear this administration is not serious about improving our transportation situation.