Trade group: Exempt cross-border truckers from vaccine mandate

A trucking trade group is urging U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to exempt cross-border truckers from COVID-19 vaccine rules implemented in mid-January.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent letters to Biden and Trudeau  on Monday.

The move comes after the Freedom Convoy entered its second week in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, to protest the country’s rule that took effect on Jan. 15, requiring U.S. truckers entering Canada to be vaccinated. The U.S. rule for Canadian truckers wanting to deliver freight into the U.S. was implemented on Jan. 22.

“Since commercial drivers spend the majority of their time alone in their vehicle and outside, there is no evidence that truckers present a higher risk of spreading the virus,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote in the letters to Biden and Trudeau.

The letters state that many drivers in Canada and the U.S. have “elected not to operate cross-border under the new rules, while others continue to experience excessive wait times at border entry points because of the new protocols.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation representing truckers across the country, estimated that over 85% of truckers in Canada are vaccinated.

As of publication, the American Trucking Associations did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment about lifting vaccine restrictions at the U.S.-Canada border.

Truckers protest vaccine rules

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency  for the city on Sunday after thousands of protesters, overwhelmingly outnumbering the truckers, converged upon the city.

But as the movement spilled into other cities, the reasons for the protests changed. In a FreightWaves article on Friday, truck drivers complained that their initial message was drowned out by protesters focused on other issues, such as grievances against the Canadian government over health care cuts.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked efforts to mandate that businesses with over 100 employees require vaccinations and all truckers are exempt when driving domestically, some U.S. trucker groups are attempting to band together to organize a cross-country convoy to Washington to protest the mandate on behalf of other organizations. The tentative date is March 1.

“We are trying to build upon the success that truckers in Canada are experiencing,” Jeremy Rewoldt, founder of the Facebook group StopTheTires2020, told FreightWaves recently. 

Rewoldt said his group, which consists of nearly 69,000 members, supports the efforts of Convoy to D.C. 2022 organizers after Facebook removed the group’s initial page last week for violating policies around QAnon, Fox News reported

“This isn’t about who’s in charge or a particular political party being right or wrong — it’s about constitutional freedoms. As truck drivers, we stand with the nurses, schoolteachers, law enforcement and the farmers — it’s about standing up for human rights,” Rewoldt told FreightWaves.

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Editor: Clarissa Hawes, Senior Editor, Investigations and Enterprise