UPDATE: Truck drivers paying price for border vaccine confusion

Don Slater is unvaccinated, and he’s preparing to haul a load to Texas despite a vaccine mandate that Canada will impose on border-crossing truck drivers as of Jan.

15. Before a related U.S. vaccine mandate comes, he can still travel south. The American rules are not expected to be enforced until Jan.

22. But when the owner-operator returns, a new quarantine and testing requirement will be waiting for him.

(Photo: istock)

The truck driver from Simcoe, Ontario, is among Canadian truck drivers who were caught in the crossfire on Wednesday and Thursday, when vaccine-related requirements seemed to be on, then off, then on again. Government officials reinforced the quarantine and testing demands in a meeting with industry groups on Wednesday afternoon.

Hours later, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) notified media that Canadian drivers would not face quarantine requirements. By Thursday afternoon government officials reinforced the original mandate, saying that the reversal was in error. Dispatch called Slater with a load on Wednesday: An eight-drop run going to Texas, with stops in Kansas and Louisiana along the way.

It would pay the owner-operator a few thousand dollars, and he was quick to accept it. When the fleet called Thursday to say they assumed he would turn down the job, given the return of the cross-border requirements, Slater told them he was committed to the load. “I’m taking the load.

I’m going,” Slater said. “I can get into the U.S. up ’til the 22nd or midnight on the 21st. If I’ve got to quarantine for 14 days, I don’t give a shit. I’m taking that load.”

But he wonders: “Why did it take 24 hours to correct a mistake?”

Looking for exemption

Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, is raising the same question – and calling on government officials to exempt Canadian truck drivers who are already in the U.S. from quarantine requirements when they return home. Based on news that suggested such requirements would be eased, many carriers dispatched some unvaccinated drivers into the U.S. on Wednesday, he said. “All of this flip flopping in messaging has created mass confusion in industry, and the lack of outreach to industry made this worse,” Millian said in a message to federal officials, stressing that the error was not corrected for 16 hours.

“While we understand errors can be made, the industry and drivers should not be left swinging in the wind for as long as they were, when a simple communication – similar to the one that caused the confusion in the first place – could have been issued and cleared confusion up in a timely manner. The industry and these drivers deserve better.”

Penalties and quarantine procedures

“Although border officials maintain the ability to issue fines/penalties, the government recognizes this is a transition period and does not expect fines/penalties to be issued initially to unvaccinated drivers,” the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said in a Friday bulletin, noting it has been seeking relief for those who can’t return to Canada before Jan.

15. “Federal officials have indicated that enforcement of health measures, including mandatory quarantine, will be enforced.

However, flexibility could be used on other enforcement policies for these drivers.” It added that no Canadian driver will be denied entry into the country, but unvaccinated truck drivers among them will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine plans will need to be submitted using the ArriveCAN app, but if this is not possible the truck drivers should be ready to produce a verbal plan when crossing back across the border.

Unvaccinated truck drivers with a shipment will be required to complete their move and then head directly to the address on their quarantine plan. No other pickups or drop-offs will be permitted, although empty trailers can be repositioned along the route. The time spent in the truck while completing this commercial move will count toward the 14-day quarantine.

“Officials have clarified that a suitable place of quarantine does not include the cab of a truck and must be done at a verifiable address,” CTA added. “Follow-up actions will be taken by enforcement officials to ensure that the driver is quarantining as required.”

  • This story has been updated with guidance from the Canadian Trucking Alliance.