OTTAWA—Canada’s transport minister said a Covid-19 vaccine mandate that targets truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border has had little impact on the volume of trailers entering the country to deliver goods.
made his assessment Monday after a meeting between Canadian officials and members of the trucking industry and other industrial sectors to discuss alleviating logjams in cross-border supply chains.
“So far there is no sign whatsoever that the mandate has had an impact on the volume of trucks crossing the borders,” Mr. Alghabra said at a press conference. “That does not mean that there aren’t any supply-chain disruptions; it does not mean that there aren’t any challenges out there; and it doesn’t mean that people aren’t finding enough truckers to carry their load.”
He cited government data indicating roughly 100,000 trucks entered Canada in the seven days after the mandate kicked in Jan. 15, and said a similar trend was witnessed over the past week. The crossings are roughly in line with traffic volumes recorded in the fall, according to the most-recent figures from Statistics Canada.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Alghabra didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking more information about the data. According to Statistics Canada, in November, nearly 400,000 Canadian trucks re-entered the country from the U.S., while about 65,000 U.S. trucks crossed into Canada that month.
On Jan. 15, Canada started requiring U.S. and other foreign truckers to be fully vaccinated to gain entry into the country, and for a brief period Canadian truckers who were unvaccinated were allowed to enter the country but required to quarantine for 14 days. On Jan. 22, the U.S. imposed a similar requirement, barring unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers from ferrying goods across the border.
Canada’s trucker vaccine mandate triggered warnings from trucking and industrial groups of possible shortages of goods. It prompted some drivers and their supporters to organize a protest in downtown Ottawa demanding the Liberal government drop all vaccine mandates and social restrictions.
That protest, which is clogging up traffic in the Canadian capital, is entering its fourth day and the main organizers have vowed to remain in Ottawa until vaccine mandates are rescinded. Police said there have been no injuries and no violent incidents since the protest began Friday. On Monday, roughly 500 protesters walked around parked trucks and along the nearby sidewalk, many waving Canadian flags and homemade signs calling for the vaccine mandates to end.
According to U.S. trade data, two-way trade in merchandise between the U.S. and Canada totaled over $600 billion in 2019, the last full year for which data was available. About 80% of those goods move on trucks, the Canadian exporter and trucking sectors estimate.
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, said his members—among them major grocers and restaurant chains that operate their own fleets—are reporting no serious disruptions in getting goods delivered. He said some companies are reallocating their drivers, putting fully vaccinated drivers who primarily handled domestic routes onto cross-border service.
“It still hasn’t filled the void 100%. It has just lessened the pressure a little bit,” he said.
Mr. Millian said some members are reporting that transportation costs for getting produce from the U.S. to Canada have increased up to 50% because there is less capacity since the mandates were introduced.
In the U.S., the Transportation Intermediaries Association, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group representing freight brokers, said the vaccine requirements are slowing cross-border freight movement and adding stress to supply lines.
“We are hearing directly from our members that the shortage of drivers able to cross the border is causing delays in freight movement of 7 to 14 days and growing and increases in the rates of moving goods from 30% to as much as 100% in certain lanes,” TIA President and Chief Executive Anne Reinke said in a statement.
The Canadian government has cited surveys by groups such as the Canadian Trucking Alliance that indicate nearly 90% of truckers in that country are fully vaccinated. “Most of our nation’s hard-working truck drivers are continuing to move cross-border and domestic freight to ensure our economy continues to function,” the alliance said last week.
The group said it was concerned, however, that many truckers might be removed from service during a period of acute labor shortages.
—Jennifer Smith contributed to this article.
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