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CEO: Vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers ‘not an issue at all’ for TFI

Small number of unvaccinated drivers given domestic work in Canada, Bédard says

TFI has the largest truck fleet in Canada. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border hasn’t been a problem for Canada’s largest trucking company, TFI International, CEO Alain Bédard told financial analysts on Tuesday. 

“Vaccination at TFI is not an issue at all,” Bédard said while discussing the company’s fourth-quarter financial results. “On the Canadian side, most of our drivers are vaccinated.”

Bédard made the comments less than a month after the Canadian and U.S. governments implemented mandates, on Jan. 15 and 22, respectively. While some carriers and industry groups such as the Canadian Trucking Alliance had raised alarm about a large drop in cross-border capacity, it does not appear to have happened.

Last week, the minister of transport said during a news conference that the mandate did not appear to have affected the volume of trucks crossing the borders versus a year ago. However, the demand for cross-border freight is also significantly higher than a year ago. 

Bédard said TFI (NYSE:TFII), which has over 5,000 trucks based in Canada, shifted the small number of unvaccinated drivers to domestic work. The bigger issue for the company was people being out sick with COVID-19 at its U.S. operations, particularly TForce Freight.

Anecdotally, the mandates have had a disproportionate effect on smaller Canadian carriers, especially west of Ontario, and owner-operators, as well as U.S. carriers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OODIA) sent letters to President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for cross-border drivers to be exempt. 

Meanwhile, protests over the mandates have disrupted the movement of freight at the U.S.-Canada border. A protest blockade temporarily closed the busiest crossing, the Ambassador Bridge — which links Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  

Hundreds of trucks also remain in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, as part of the Freedom Convoy. Police have stepped up enforcement efforts and are targeting efforts to replenish truckers’ fuel supplies.

Watch now: OOIDA’s take on the cross-border vaccine mandate 

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected].