Contrary to recent media reports, cross-border truck drivers, regardless of their citizenship or place of residence, will be fully subject to the federal government’s vaccination mandate as of January 15, 2022. In short, all Canadian drivers who are unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated, will have to quarantine on arrival. Foreign drivers without sufficient proof of vaccination will be denied entry.
On November 19, 2021, the federal government announced that it would require full vaccination for travellers and workers in federally regulated spheres, including on navigable waters, in cross-border trucking, rail and air travel. Drivers and crews who had been exempt from emergency rules as “essential workers” would be covered by the new mandate, but they were given until January 15, 2022 to come into compliance. The corresponding Order-in-Council was amended accordingly.
In the final days before implementation, there has been a fog of confusion hovering over the industry, due to conflicting announcements by government officials.
Earlier this week, on January 12, 2022, several media outlets cited an announcement from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers would remain exempt from pre-arrival, arrival, and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements, but the mandatory vaccination requirement would come into effect as scheduled for foreign truck drivers seeking entry to Canada.
The following day, this was reconfirmed by a CBSA spokesperson, who cited Item 4 of Table 1 to Schedule 2 to the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation, and Other Obligations), made pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act, which exempts classes of people designated by the Chief Public Health Officer who provide an essential service and for whom quarantining would adversely affect their provision of the essential service. A corresponding designation was given for “… truck drivers and members of a crew on any aircraft, shipping vessel or train [that] cross the border while performing their duties or for the purpose of performing their duties.” The spokesperson did not address the fact that as of January 15, 2022, rather than covering all designated classes of essential workers, the Item 4 exemption would only apply in cases where the Chief Public Health Officer has determined that there are “compelling reasons, based on public interest, for their entry to provide an essential service.” In fairness, it is not clear whether this is a distinction without a difference.
However, on the evening of January 13, 2022, the federal Ministers of Health, Transport, and Public Safety issued a joint statement effectively confirming that they meant what they said the first time around: as of January 15, 2022: (i) all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers will be subject to testing requirements and required to quarantine upon re-entry into Canada; and (ii) all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign truck drivers will be denied entry to Canada. We have linked a copy of their joint statement..
In late-November, U.S. President Biden announced that one week from now, on January 22, 2022, a similar rule will come into effect for Canadian truck drivers seeking entry to the United States.
 As of that date, the same rules will also apply to crew members in other modes of transportation.