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Senators ask Biden to exempt truckers from border vaccine mandate

Republican lawmakers seek carveout for Canadian drivers over fears of supply chain disruption

Truckers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to cross the U.S.-Canada border starting in January. (Photo: Eric Buermeyer/Shutterstock)

Fourteen Republican U.S. senators have asked President Joe Biden to exempt Canadian truck drivers who cross the U.S.-Canada border from a fast-approaching vaccine mandate for foreign essential workers in January, saying the requirement will disrupt the North American supply chain.

The letter, led by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, also called on the Biden administration to work with the Canadian government to exempt truckers from that country’s reciprocal vaccine requirement — also taking effect in January. 

“Despite the good intentions underpinning this action, we fear that the imposition of vaccination mandates as a requirement to cross the land border will exacerbate the existing challenges facing our freight networks and supply chain, and could further fuel inflation and rising prices on top of what Americans are already seeing,” the senators wrote in the letter, dated last Friday. 

Watch now: Should drivers get vaccinated?

They echoed concerns raised by industry groups that the mandate, which reportedly takes effect Jan. 22, would lead thousands of drivers to leave cross-border freight. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has called for the requirement to be pushed back, while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is opposing it altogether.

“Our nation’s truck drivers worked diligently during the pandemic to facilitate critical cross-border freight movements that helped to feed and clothe American communities. Now, implementing these policies could cost them their jobs,” the senators said in the letter.

To date, the U.S. and Canadian governments have shown no signs of walking back or postponing the vaccine requirements coming to the border.

Even if the Biden administration were to make an exception for truckers, it would effectively be superseded by a vaccination mandate coming in early 2022 to employers regulated by the Canadian government, which includes all cross-border trucking companies.  

Canadians account for about 75% of the truckers who move freight between the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that around 20% of drivers could leave cross-border freight entirely because of the vaccine mandate. 

A Montreal-based carrier recently announced that it is giving its vaccinated drivers a CA$10,000 (US$7,800) bonus. Meanwhile, some carriers have been boosting mileage rates for cross-border drivers.

Joining Daines in the letter were Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota; James Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho; John Thune of South Dakota; Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran of Kansas; Mike Braun of Indiana; Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming; Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; Roger Wicker of Mississippi; Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; and Susan Collins of Maine.

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  1. Zac

    Shouldn’t these senators instead just lobby for these truckers to be paid for time off to get vaccinated?

    It puts you out for a day or two, tops! Also, significantly decreases your chances of becoming seriously ill if you manage to contract the virus.

    Seems like a much simpler solution. I really don’t understand how anyone could argue that mandating vaccination costs anyone a job. Especially since these mandates allow exemptions/accommodations for individuals who have a legitimate reason to avoid vaccination.

  2. Bill Duepontif

    If it is not clear to everyone by now that these associated mandates and covid travel restrictions are a total scam, I am not sure what else it is going to take to have people wake up.
    If covid is such a problem and vaccines (which have proven to be ineffective given the rates of infection among the vaccinated) are mandated as the answer, then explain this:
    1 – how is driving a freight truck across a border any less infectious than a car full of holiday travelers.
    2 – with literally millions of unvaccinated & illegal border jumping immigrants with many testing positive for covid, streaming across the southern border since the current administration was installed in office, how are these illegal border jumpers any less infectious than a holiday traveler. Particularly considering the current administration is dispersing these illegal border jumpers to key states where they lost the vote in 2020. They are dispersing these illegal border jumpers by bus and chartered aircraft.
    3 – if covid is such a problem and so dangerous that vaccine mandates are required for ‘public safety’ then why are postal worker, members of congress and their staff and others with connections to the current governing class exempted from any mandates.

    Wake up folks. This whole this is so clearly a scam a blind person could see it. It is and always has been about the money, power and control. It is and never has been about public health.

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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].