Ottawa declares state of emergency as OOIDA calls for end to border vax mandates

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Updated Feb 13, 2022

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association called on Canada and the U.S. to end vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing international borders one day after the mayor of the city of Ottawa on Sunday declared a state of emergency in response to the ongoing protests that have rocked that city, and shaken up operations on both sides of the border.

In letters sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden, OOIDA on Monday requested "that professional truck drivers be exempted from the cross-border vaccination requirements" imposed on January 15 in Canada and January 22 in the U.S. for essential personnel. 

"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, both OOIDA letters stated. "Because the current cross-border policy disregards the economic contributions of the trucking industry and overlooks the basic operating procedures of the profession, we urge you to immediately exempt professional truck drivers from the vaccination mandate."

The letter went on: "An arbitrary vaccine mandate should not prevent hard-working men and women from earning a living. The trucking profession is by no means an easy one and the pandemic has highlighted many of the difficult working conditions drivers are forced to endure." 

OOIDA joins both the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance in opposing the border vaccine mandate. OOIDA's statement on Monday did not mention the ongoing protests across Canada, which have dominated headlines out of Ottawa and even caused a shutdown at the Coutts port of entry, though that's cleared now. 

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Sunday declared a state of emergency to reflect "the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations," according a statement from the mayor's office. The declaration "highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government." 

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The declaration "also provides greater flexibility within the municipal administration to enable the City of Ottawa to manage business continuity for essential services for its residents and enables a more flexible procurement process, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders."

It's unclear how the city might manage the influx of tractors, or what equipment would be procured to facilitate their removal. Canadian authorities contacted by Overdrive about the blockade at Coutts were similarly vague about how any enforcement would play out. 

For cross-border truckers able to haul, the present appears to be an at least profitable time, if a difficult one. Overdrive spoke to an owner-operator a week back who grossed $14,000 on a 2,000-mile haul destined north of the border, but that driver dealt with significant protest-related delays on his way back.

On Monday, another Canadian-national driver told Overdrive that Canada's vaccine mandate enforcement at the border hadn't been too difficult, and the ArriveCAN website and app isn't hard to use. This driver reported crossing the border five or six times since the dawn of the mandates in mid-January, and that the Canadian side was basically "set it and forget it" with regard to the app, and that only once had the U.S. side inquired about his vaccination status.