Will the border vaccine mandates impact truck driver staffing?

Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 10:27 PM EST
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MILTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Starting Saturday, any non-U.S. citizen needs proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the country. This comes a week after Canada imposed the same rules for foreign travelers. That means Vermont’s truck drivers, who carry and deliver goods to and from Canada, must get the shots or be barred from crossing the border. Channel 3′s Melissa Cooney learns how the mandate is impacting truck companies already struggling to hire staff.

“It isn’t going to make it easier for us, that’s for darn sure,” said Bill Smith, who is a lawyer and lobbyist representing the Vermont Truck and Bus Association. He says this vaccine requirement has been anticipated for months but worries some workers might walk.

“If you have people that actually quit a business, you hear stories about that, you need to replace them. The business has an obligation to haul freight that they’ve already agreed to do,” said Smith.

Smith says on the other hand, he’s also heard drivers who usually cross into Canada but refuse the vaccine can be reallocated to a domestic route when possible. “But that might not always be the case for the smaller operations we have in Vermont. Some folks may be hauling almost exclusively out of Canada and the U.S. and vise versa, as opposed to assigning someone to another ride,” said Smith.

“It prompted our guys to get vaccinated if they weren’t or let us know if they weren’t so we could plan accordingly,” said Ryan Bellavance, the vice president of Bellavance Trucking in Milton. He says the company makes around half a dozen to ten trips across the border a week, and the handful of drivers who cross got the shots without complaint.

But, he notes the business is enduring a labor shortage like many across the country. Bellavance employs 90 truckers now, down from a record 175 in 2010.

“Even this year, I mean, we’ve had 20 open trucks all year and just can’t find anyone from the outside,” said Bellavance.

Pro Driver Training is a commercial drivers license school in Milton. They say these vaccine requirements don’t seem to be impacting enrollment.

“Companies that require it to go to Canada are going to find the drivers they need to do it, and if the driver really wants to work and do those routes, they’re going to get vaccinated,” said Alex Johnson, the co-owner of Pro Driver Training.

Liz Green, another co-owner, says that proof of vaccination is becoming a qualification like any other for border-crossing truck drivers, like having a license.

“It’s part of what you need to do in order to run the routes that are required to get into Canada. It’s that simple, and I don’t believe it’s been a deterrent to many people,” said Green.

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