The head of a trucking industry association said thousands of Canadian truckers would not be vaccinated against COVID-19 before a deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, throwing up a supply chain already stretched by the global pandemic into even more chaos.
“It makes a bad situation worse. It’s the perfect storm, ”said Stephen Laskowski, President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
A mid-January deadline for the vaccines mandate was announced by the United States in mid-October. Last week, Canada announced a January 15 deadline for truckers entering this country.
Based on reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 percent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly enter the United States may not be vaccinated by the time the deadline approaches.
“Even though every company gets its vaccination rate up to 90 percent, that’s still 12,000 drivers,” said Laskowski, who calls on both governments to delay the deadline.
These estimates are frightening to people in industries as diverse as fruit and vegetable imports to auto parts manufacturing, who say it could wreak havoc on an already faltering supply chain.
Steve Bamford, board member of the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, predicted that the shortage of drivers would push the already rising price of fruits and vegetables even higher.
“The supply chain is already broken. You can’t take 20 percent of the workforce out of the mix and expect it won’t have a major impact, ”said Bamford, a fourth-generation product supplier.
Bamford estimates that the cost of sending a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California to Toronto could double from its current range of $ 6,000 to $ 7,000.
“If there are 20% fewer drivers at work, everyone is going to scramble to pay others more,” Bamford said, adding that the increased shipping costs will be passed on to wholesale customers and , possibly, on the prices of your local fruits. and vegetable stand.
“You have to pass those costs on, or you would go bankrupt pretty quickly,” Bamford said.
For the Canadian auto parts industry, trucking is vital, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.
“Trucking is the lifeblood of our industry. Cars are shipped by train, parts are shipped by truck, ”said Volpe, who estimated that nearly half of Canada’s $ 35 billion industry output crosses the border.
“This is hitting the industry at a time when supply chains have been struggling the most in a hundred years,” Volpe said.
Even though some ports around the world are slowly starting to shed the mess they found themselves in during COVID, the global supply chain is far from back to normal, said Fraser Johnson, professor at the Ivey School of Western University Business.
“Trucking and rail are becoming huge bottlenecks. And increasing the shortage of drivers won’t help, ”said Johnson, who specializes in supply chain issues.
Johnson says the scale of cross-border trade is so large that even a slight reduction in truck traffic could have major economic consequences.
“The Detroit-Windsor Bridge moves a billion dollars in freight every day,” Johnson said.
CTA’s Laskowski agreed.
“It’s not just a problem with the trucking industry. It is a North American economic issue. Every sector will be affected, from manufacturing to electronics, food and auto parts. ”
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