Driver vaccine mandates haven’t snarled cross-border flow of goods, top trucking firm says

Comments come as anti-mandate protests block Ambassador Bridge, a ‘vital trade artery’ for the auto sector Publishing date: Feb 08, 2022  •  8 hours ago  •  2 minute read  •  20 Comments Anti-mandate protestors are shown along Huron Church Road in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse/Windsor Star The CEO of…
Driver vaccine mandates haven’t snarled cross-border flow of goods, top trucking firm says

Comments come as anti-mandate protests block Ambassador Bridge, a ‘vital trade artery’ for the auto sector

Publishing date:

Feb 08, 2022  •  8 hours ago  •  2 minute read  •  20 Comments

Anti-mandate protestors are shown along Huron Church Road in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse/Windsor Star

The CEO of one of North America’s top trucking firms brushed off concerns about vaccine mandates for drivers, just as anti-mandate protests continued across the country and cut off a critical trade crossing in Ontario.

Alain Bédard, chief executive of Montreal-based TFI International Inc., said the majority of his drivers in Canada are already vaccinated, and the few that aren’t are kept busy with domestic routes that don’t require crossing the border.

“For sure, there’s some small carriers in Canada that are having an issue,” Bédard said on a call with financial analysts on Feb. 8. “But at TFI, it is not an issue at all.”

In mid-January, the federal government cancelled an exemption that had previously allowed unvaccinated truckers to re-enter Canada without quarantining, riling some in an industry that has struggled for years to recruit an adequate number of drivers.

That frustration is what initially ignited the Freedom Convoy of trucks that descended on Ottawa before inspiring similar demonstrations in other cities this month. But those convoys and their organizers were quickly disavowed by industry leaders as the protest evolved beyond the vaccine mandate to take aim more broadly at COVID-19 restrictions.

Bédard said TFI saw the mandates coming and tried to convince drivers to get a shot with the message: “You’re free. You do whatever you want. OK, we get that. But guys, I mean, to cross the border, we know at one point it’s going to be an issue.”

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) salt trucks block off the access ramps to Ambassador Bridge for trucks traveling into Canada in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Hundreds of trucks and truck drivers attempting to cross Ambassador Bridge from Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Canada are stuck on the U.S. side after the bridge was closed by Canadian protesters over vaccine mandates. Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, protests in Windsor continued to cut off access to the Ambassador Bridge, blocking what Premier Doug Ford called a “vital trade artery” that connects Ontario’s auto-manufacturing hub to Detroit.

The tolled suspension bridge boasts on its website that it allows for “$323 million worth of goods” to cross the Windsor-Detroit border daily.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, called the blockade a “brain dead move” in a tweet, suggesting that workers could be temporarily laid off due to the delays.

More On This Topic

  1. Justin Trudeau blasts trucker protest as key Ambassador Bridge to U.S. shuts down

  2. What your fruit has been through: A green grape’s journey through a global supply chain on edge

  3. Trucker vaccine mandate protest snarls Canada-U.S. border crossing for fifth day

  4. Jason Kenney calls on Trudeau, Biden to ‘exercise common sense’ on truckers vaccine mandate

Some truckers were able to cross the bridge into Detroit on Tuesday morning, but traffic was still fully blocked from crossing into Windsor, the Windsor Star reported.

“International commerce needs to resume,” bridge owner Matt Moroun said in a statement, according to the Star.

The transportation industry has been struggling to keep pace with a surge in orders to transport freight, due in part to widespread labour shortages. TFI has been overbooked in Canada since November and has been “taking advantage of market conditions,” Bédard said.

“The demand is more than supply,” he said. “And that’s why I’m saying that probably TFI will have its best-ever month of January.”

In its fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, TFI’s revenues increased 91 per cent to $2.1 billion, compared to the previous year. Earnings per share of $1.57 handily beat forecasts of $1.17, according to a report from the National Bank of Canada.

Financial Post

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