Trucking associations question new Covid-19 requirements at border
Canadian trucking associations are pushing back against plans to require border-crossing truck drivers to submit contact information and quarantine plans through the ArriveCAN app, as well as any proposal to require drivers to submit recent Covid-19 test results. Non-essential travelers now have to submit proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours, but truck drivers are exempt from such requirements as essential workers. Their screening is currently limited to a series of questions asked at the land crossings.Canada's public safety minister has said the government is looking at plans to require cross-border truck drivers to submit proof of negative Covid-19 tests. (File photo)
But questions about whether truck drivers should be included in the testing program emerged this weekend, when Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told CBC that the government was exploring the idea.
"We're working very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and also with our provincial health authorities to [look] at implementing a system of regular testing to help protect those essential workers and truck drivers that are coming into the country and also to ensure that they're not the source of any new infection," he said on Rosemary Barton Live. In a statement released today, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) stressed that Covid-19 spread among trucking company employees has been "extremely minimal", and highlighted that longhaul trucking tends to be self-isolating and limits contacts with others. "CTA is not supportive of mandatory Covid testing of truck drivers (at the border)," the CTA statement says, noting that many border crossings would not be able to hand a testing system or be able to turn loads around because drivers failed to submit a negative test.
Congestion at border crossings could become extreme with the additional screening, causing many drivers to run out of hours, it adds. Instead, CTA is calling on the federal government to explore the idea of voluntary test sites that can be accessed through truck stops and rest areas, rather than setting up tests at the border itself.
Coming app requirements
Meanwhile, the CTA and Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) have each raised concerns about plans to require all travelers to submit information and a quarantine plan through the ArriveCAN app as of Feb 22. "I have received numerous calls and emails from members whose drivers have been told at various border crossings, by several CBSA border officers, that effective Monday they will need to submit their information via the app," says PMTC president Mike Millian.
"When drivers have informed them they did not have a device to download the ArriveCAN app, they have been told they will be detained and fined." "A conservative estimate of upwards of 20% of the cross-border truck driving community does not currently have access to smartphone technology, meaning alternative methods for complying with this potential requirement must be developed," CTA says. Onboard communications systems are also unsuitable for personal use with the ArriveCAN app, it adds.
In a letter asking for clarification from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Millian referred to a 55-truck fleet that uses a walkie-talkie style of communication system and crosses the border multiple times per day.
"When the driver told the officer [that] he did not have the ability to download the app, the officer told him that was his problem," Millian said.
Today's Trucking has submitted a request for clarification from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
- This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.