A Canadian trucking industry group is calling on all levels of government to distinguish between different classes of international travel, to avoid bringing the Canadian economy to a screeching halt.
Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), said his organization supports enforcing self-quarantine measures on anyone who shows symptoms of novel coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.
However, he’s concerned about the lack of distinction between recreational or discretionary travel, and travel for the purpose of international commerce, including trucking.
Laskowski explained that his concerns relate to recent recommendations from some provincial governments that travellers returning to Canada from international destinations voluntarily self-isolate.
A group of federal ministers and health officials also held a news conference on Friday, announcing new measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including voluntarily self-quarantine for travellers returning from international destinations.
Laskowski said the Canadian economy would be “greatly negatively impacted” by a policy requiring all international truckers to self-isolate, regardless of their reason for travelling abroad.
One of the clear steps that’s been taken is once an employee is identified as positive with the virus, [they] go into quarantine, and obviously, we support that in our members too.– Stephen Laskowski, President, Canadian Trucking Alliance
He added that his organization has been working with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety to draft resources and recommendations for Canadian truckers with respect to how to tackle the COVID-19 issue.
“And they have numerous resources for the trucking industry — and quite frankly all employers in Canada — with regards to how to tackle this virus, from internal prevention to dealing with the supply chain,” he said. “The last 14 days, we’ve been strongly encouraging our members to use that expertise and resource, because … we are not health practitioners.”
Laskowski said he’s not aware of any truckers who have presented with COVID-19 symptoms. Should that be the case, he said drivers would be told to follow coronavirus guidelines from the federal government.
“One of the clear steps that’s been taken is once an employee is identified as positive with the virus, [they] go into quarantine, and obviously, we support that in our members too,” he said.
In addition to clarifying travel restrictions for international trucking and commerce, Laskowski said he wants to ensure his organization has a seat at any table where such conversations are taking place.
“We’ll have our experts at the table, and we’ll do our best to comply, if possible,” he said.
For his part, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said both the Canadian and U.S. auto sectors, as well the manufacturing industries in both countries, would be negatively affected if travel restrictions are imposed on the trucking industry.
“Much of the manufacturing in Canada is tied into ‘just-in-time’ delivery,” he said.
“If there’s a stop of flow of parts between the borders, it’ll have a huge negative impact on both of our nations.”
Nonetheless, Dias said the priority “has to be about keeping people safe.”
Despite growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Laskowski said there’s been an increased demand for international trucking services.
“What you’re seeing, especially in the food transportation business, is significant demand on trucking services to move products that appear to be in high demand from the Canadian public who are concerned about the virus and, one would assume, are engaging in the practice of stocking up on key supplies that they believe might not be available,” he said.