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US truckers cheer as 'jab law' is quashed, but Canadian protest convoy rolls on

US truckers are celebrating after the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cancelled a mandate for companies with 100+ employees to vaccinate their workforce.

Meanwhile, across the border, a convoy of truckers opposed to cross-border vaccine rules is rolling towards a protest at the Canadian parliament building in Ottawa.

The truckers are claiming victory in the battle over Washington’s bid to stem the spread of Covid via a vaccine mandate for larger firms, issued on 5 November.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) had been at the forefront of opposition to the mandate as well mounting a legal challenge, which saw US Supreme Court judges agreeing claims that the government agency did not have the authority to issue such a mandate, and on 13 January issued a staying order. Two weeks later OSHA haas cancelled it.

“We successfully challenged this misguided mandate all the way to the US Supreme Court, because it was a clear overstep of OSHA’s authority and because it would have had disastrous consequences for an already overstressed supply chain,” said ATA president Chris Spear.

“We are pleased to see the agency has now formally withdrawn it, sending this ETS to the dustbin where it belongs.”

Trucking interests in Canada are also on the barricades against vaccination mandates. The self-styled “freedom convoy” is making its way across Canada to express opposition to requirements that bar unvaccinated US truckers from entering the country and impose quarantines on unvaccinated Canadian drivers returning.

Canada implemented this on 15 January and the US followed suit a week later with similar rules for truck drivers entering from Canada or Mexico.

The convoy set out from Vancouver on Sunday and aims to reach the Canadian capital on Saturday. The organisers have issued dire warnings that the regulation could force large numbers of truckers to walk away from cross-border transport, if not from trucking altogether, which would exacerbate the shortage of drivers and send further shockwaves through an already battered supply chain. Consumers would face empty shelves in stores and the cost of trucking – and goods – would rise.

As the convoy rolled, the rhetoric shifted from supply chain disruption to a political argument over curbing of freedom. There was even a suggestion that the protest could turn into a Canadian version of the events at the US Capitol in January last year. Opposition politicians have joined in the chorus, and one of the convoy organisers, who started a funding page that has garnered over C$1m in donations, is the secretary of a right-wing political party.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), however, has distanced itself from the increasingly politicised spectacle. On the eve of the convoy’s departure, it expressed its “strong disapproval” of protests on public roads, declaring that “protests that interfered with public safety” were not an appropriate way to express disagreement with government policies.

According to CTA estimates, about 80%-85% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated. Those who are not would, arguably, not be too hard pressed to find alternative work. Last summer there were about 23,000 vacancies in the Canadian trucking industry.

In light of the high vaccination rate, some truckers do not expect the cross-border regulations to have a serious impact on traffic. Trucking spot rates were already on the ascent before the Canadian mandate, partly reflecting tight capacity and partly the rising price of diesel. Some large Canadian trucking firms have complained over the past year that pricing was at unsustainably low levels and needed to rise.

Credit The Loadstar By Ian Putzger

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