OTTAWA, Jan 13 (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccine requirements for foreign truckers at the Canada-U.S. border still could cause supply-chain disruptions if both countries do not allow exemptions, the head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday, Canada dropped a vaccine mandate for Canadian truckers returning home from the United States that was supposed to kick in on Saturday, but unvaccinated non-Canadians will still be turned back at the border.
The United States has signaled, without providing details, that foreign truck drivers will have to show proof of inoculation to enter the United States starting on Jan. 22.
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So if both countries keep their respective bans on unvaccinated foreign drivers, thousands will be taken off the roads, creating the first policy measure since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.
"After the 22nd, my members won't be able to go into the United States if they're unvaccinated. And the Americans won't be able to get into here if they're not vaccinated," Stephen Laskowski, president and chief executive of the CTA, told Reuters.
"So we're asking both countries to work together to remove their foreign national (vaccine) mandate and look for a better date to put this in place," he added.
The trucking industry carries more than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($521 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States.
The CTA estimates that 10% to 20%, or between 12,000-22,000 of Canadian truck drivers, and 40%, or some 16,000, of U.S. truck drivers traveling into Canada would be sidelined by mandates.
Supply chain disruptions drove Canada's headline inflation to an 18-year high in November, and the Bank of Canada has signaled that it could raise interest rates to counter rising prices as soon as April.
In the United States, inflation rose at its fastest pace year-to-year in nearly four decades in December.
Laskowski said he is in contact with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and that neither the CTA or the ATA have any information as to how the U.S. mandate will be enforced. The ATA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Canada's border agency and the ministry of public safety, which oversees the border, did not immediately comment when asked about potential exemptions for foreign drivers.
The White House declined to immediately comment.
($1 = 1.2482 Canadian dollars)
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comRegisterReporting by Steve Scherer; additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis