The Impact of COVID-19 to Canada’s Transportation and Trucking Industry
As the COVID-19 situation continues to progress, Canada implements more stringent mitigation measures within and across its borders. Despite the restrictions, the trucking industry declared as an essential service remains business as usual.
While supplies run low in supermarkets, drugstores, hospitals and gas stations due to panic buying and lockdowns; truckers are now working harder than ever to replenish those stocks and keep the supply chains moving.
But how are trucking businesses, which transport other types of loads apart from the essential items, dealing with the pandemic crisis?
Most importantly, as freight companies and truck drivers continue to operate, what precautionary measures do they take to prevent the further spread of coronavirus?
Canada bans entry of other nationalities except for U.S. citizens
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau announced on March 16, along with other new courses of action, that foreign nationalities will be denied entry to Canada. U.S. nationals, diplomats and flight crews are exceptions to the rule. However, anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board their flights going to Canada; nor will they be granted entry upon the border.
It must also be noted that foreign nationalities, working as truckers and drivers in Canada, who have travelled outside the country during their consignment will be welcomed to return to the country. Moreover, the 14-day quarantine requirement will spare truck drivers, regardless of nationality, provided they do not manifest any symptoms of the virus.
Canada limits airports accommodating international flights
Canada has implemented new border measures on March 18. With the new regulations taking effect, only four airports at present can accept international flights. As a result, the rest of the airports will redirect all international flights to any of the following:
- Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Vancouver International Airport
- Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
- Calgary International Airport
Consequently, the limitation will only result in the need for more truckers. Trucking industries will then move other goods and commodities by land to distribute to other provinces and territories in Canada.
Canada-U.S. border shuts down to “non-essential traffic”
On March 18, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump both agreed to temporarily close its countries’ border due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the closure exempts trade and commerce, as well as workers which are considered “essential”. Essential goods are physical items such as food, water, fuel, hygiene and cleaning supplies, and construction materials for shelter.
The border will no longer permit tourism as well as recreational travel. Moreover, officials on both the Canadian and American borders will further scrutinize crossing truck drivers. Nevertheless, they reassure that the movement of the truckers and supplies will be efficient.
With the border’s new rule, trucking businesses with non-essential loads face a major setback. Not to mention, the general trucking industry has been paralyzed since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Truckers with loads usually going to and from China have been experiencing an all-time low due to the constraints brought about by pandemic COVID-19.
- The Canada-U.S. border is the world’s longest land border extending up to 5000 miles. The border serves as vital access to billions worth of commodities supplying both the Canadians and the Americans.
- The last time the border closed was after the September 11 terrorism tragedy in New York and Washington.
Hours-of-service (HOS) relief to interstate truck drivers
The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to support regulatory relief to truck drivers transporting emergency supply efforts in response to COVID-19.
Under the declaration, the FMCSA states that when a driver has completed shipment, the employer shall provide the driver with a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
The relief, however, does not apply to routine commercial deliveries and mixed loads.
Canadian provinces have declared a state of emergency
The Canadian provincial governments of Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Manitoba have already declared states of emergency. The long-term effects of the declaration in the trucking industry, however, remains unclear.
- In a news conference held on March 17, Premier Jason Kenney declared Alberta under a state of public emergency. While Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city declared a state of local emergency on March 20.
One thing certain is that these provinces will do everything in their power to prevent the increase of community transmission of coronavirus.
Furthermore, as the battle against COVID-19 still presents uncertainties, the Cabinet, according to Trudeau, has been considering the Emergencies Act as the ultimate resort. However, the special measure will yet require consultation with the Canadian provinces.
Roadside rest stops scattered along North America will remain open 24 hours a day to accommodate the professional truckers carrying essential supplies amidst the coronavirus issues.
Spending countless hours on the road, truck drivers need, more than anything else, a place to rest, shop, dine and take shower breaks to protect themselves against too much exposure from the coronavirus.
Truck stop owners shall diligently disinfect and sanitize their shop areas to ensure the health and safety of their staff as well as the truck drivers.
Safety measures for freight operations
Trucking industries resume operations in the middle of the suspension of all other businesses. In fact, truckers are key to keeping Canada’s economy going by supporting the rising demand for essential supplies. Above all, the trucking industry serves as the backbone in sustaining the life and safety of Canadians in these times of crisis.
Hence, the workplaces of trucking companies are cooperating in maintaining the safety and well-being of the staff and front-liners.
Office workers and logistics staff
Some workplaces have already assigned employees who can perform remote tasks to work from home.
However, for those people whose job requires them to be physically present, flexible work hours may be introduced instead. Moreover, the workers shall practice “social distancing”, good hygiene as well as regular overall sanitation seriously.
To know more about the coronavirus infection control plan in the workplace, visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health Safety website.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) requests workers, such as truck drivers, who cross the Canadian border to move essential goods to carefully self-monitor. Should they exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, the truckers will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The status of COVID-19 in Canada rapidly changes by the day, by the hour even. With the dire need for trucking industry services to move essential supplies across the country, citizens can only hope and pray truck drivers will stay safe until this pandemic nightmare comes to an end.