Illogical for truck convoy to claim freedoms threatened by vaccine mandate, say experts
Truckers entering Canada must now be vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid testing and quarantine rules
Truckers already submit to a host of mandatory government safety regulations, from health checks to electronic monitoring of their movements.
That's why some experts say it makes no sense for some drivers to claim their freedoms are now at risk from a COVID-19 vaccination added to that long list of job requirements.
A cross-Canada convoy of truckers and their supporters is en route to Ottawa to protest a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that, as of last week, requires Canadian truckers returning to the country to be vaccinated if they want to avoid quarantine and molecular tests. The U.S. has imposed a similar vaccine mandate.
The convoy does not have the support of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the Saskatchewan Trucking Association or other groups.
The convoy is getting attention because the trucks are so large, but it appears to represent only a small minority of Canada's 300,000 long-haul drivers, said Alexander Crizzle, an associate professor and director of the Driving Research and Simulation Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan.
Vaccination "should be seen as just one more thing" for drivers, he said.
"Safety measures don't work unless they're mandatory. All the research proves that."
As an example, Crizzle cited a recent study that found drivers complied far better with rules around hours of work when electronic log books were mandatory.
He said it would be unthinkable to declare brake inspections, load limits or driver physical exams optional. All of these measures infringe on freedoms, but they are all necessary to ensure the safety of drivers and the public, he said.
University of Manitoba engineering professor Ahmed Shalaby, who worked with families of Humboldt Broncos players to lobby for better semi truck driver training and regulations, agreed.
"It's an important job, a critical job. So there are quite a number of rules for everyone's health and safety," Shalaby said.
"These systems and tools are meant to protect everyone, including the truck drivers themselves, of course. And that's really what we're seeing."
Shalaby is increasingly worried as the convoy, which started off in B.C. last Sunday, is expected to reach Ottawa this weekend. He said there's a major safety concern with emotional drivers operating a large number of massive semi-trailers in a compact line, distracted at times by flags waving or supporters yelling.
"There is potential obstruction to emergency services, fire trucks and ambulances, the safety of people on or around the road. The visibility in this situation will not be great," he said.
Brett Marcoux, board chair of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association and a driver himself, said the association does not condone the convoy.
"We just simply don't approve of protests on public roadways, highways and bridges, and we feel that the best way to deal with these situations is … through your local MP or government contact," Marcoux said, noting that an estimated 90 per cent of truckers are vaccinated.
'Draconian, fascist mandates': organizer
One of the British Columbia organizers of the convoy, longtime truck driver Sean Tiessen, said it's wrong to compare vaccination with all of the other mandatory health and safety rules imposed on truckers.
He claimed vaccine rules don't keep anyone safe, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a tyrant and that a Regina restaurant worker recently discriminated against him by telling he couldn't sit at a certain table.
He said someone has to stand up to the "draconian, fascist mandates" on vaccination.
"If I don't want to get a shot, that's my right and it's none of your f--king business," Tiessen said during a stop with the convoy in rural Ontario Thursday afternoon.
"This pertains to our rights. They are forcing and coercing people."