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“Almost everything we buy will be affected”: Approximately 12,000 Canadian truckers will not be fully vaccinated by deadline

Within days of the deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, thousands of Canadian truckers are still not fully immunized against COVID-19.

This shortfall risks plunging a supply chain already hammered by the global pandemic into even more chaos, according to industry experts.

“Almost everything we buy will be affected in one way or another,” said Fraser Johnson, professor of business management at the Ivey Business School at Western University.

Manufacturers could face delays on assembly lines, retailers face more empty shelves and higher prices, and products could end up spoiling if they get stuck at the border, Johnson warned. , one of Canada’s leading supply chain analysts.

“It will definitely mean empty shelves. Are we going to get out of it? Yes. But will we notice it? Absolutely, ”said Johnson, adding that approximately $ 1.7 billion in goods cross the Canada-US border by truck every day.

The leader of the Canadian Trucking Alliance has estimated that at least 12,000 Canadian truckers – 10 percent of the total – who currently make the round trip across the border will not be fully vaccinated by now the deadline. Truckers entering Canada must be fully vaccinated by Saturday, while truckers entering the United States face a January 21 deadline.

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 make the crossing, said CTA president Stephen Laskowski.

“We have had many conversations with the federal government, but no indication of a policy change,” said Laskowski, who would like to see the implementation of the vaccine mandate delayed.

“We need the government to work with our clients to find a date that allows them to have a smooth transition. We have to do it in a way that makes the transition as smooth 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 in the world that don’t have a mandate right now, ”Laskowski said.

Consumers can expect to pay a higher price for fruits and vegetables because of the reduced number of truckers, said Steve Bamford, president of Bamford Produce. Fewer truckers means less product crossing the border, said Bamford, a veteran farm products wholesaler.

“Anytime you take out 10-20% of the drivers in their ability to cross the border, there will be a supply problem. … Year after year we are already paying a premium. It will only amplify that, ”Bamford said.

Canadian manufacturers face a double whammy, with supplies from the United States to Canada and finished products going the other way.

“We’re just sitting here with this deadline rushing towards us. Everyone is worried, ”said Dennis Darby, President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

This concern is especially acute for small manufacturers who may be taken off the priority list if trucking companies are to choose which customers to serve, Darby said.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the least weighty,” Darby said.

The global pandemic has changed the way manufacturers approach almost everything they do, Darby said, including once-undisputed ideas such as just-in-time delivery.

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

Retailers have already faced a tightening supply chain. Removing thousands of truckers from the lot will only make matters worse, said Michelle Wasylyshen, spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada.

“Retailers are concerned about the ripple effect throughout the supply chain, especially in transportation, which exacerbates the problem of labor shortages,” Wasylyshen said. “With the entry into force of the vaccination mandate for truck drivers … trucking associations have predicted that a significant number of truck drivers will stop all cross-border travel, which (the retail board) is also fearing. a further increase in freight costs. as a further disruption of supply chains.