By GILLIAN SLADE on March 18, 2020.
An open border with the U.S. is crucial to ensuring trucks and semis continue to bring needed supplies, including groceries and medicines.
“Medical and sanitation supplies and other emergency items as well as prescriptions, food and water are typically delivered every day, in every single community within our province,” said Chris Nash, president of Alberta Motor Transport Association.
Nash says that in 2018 there were more than 10 million truckloads that came across the border.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called the Canada-U.S. border a “lifeline” to Canada bringing in goods people depend on. She pointed out the difference between non-essential travellers choosing to cross the border versus “essential” services.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced last week that anyone coming across a U.S. border would be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Shortly after that announcement flight attendants, pilots and truck drivers were exempted. Precautions were put in place to identify if any of them are showing signs of illness. Those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 are still required to self-isolate, said Nash.
Truckers are typically in the cab of their semi with limited interaction with others. They are also practising social distancing when making deliveries, he said.
“We want to make sure our truckers are safe. Let’s face it, they’re the backbone and the life-blood right now of everything going on, to keep goods moving,” said Nash.
Empire Co. Ltd., which owns Sobeys and Safeway, promised grocery stores will not run out of food.
Michael Medline, CEO of Empire Co. Ltd., told media there has been an unprecedented demand due to the coronavirus and it is just taking time to restock shelves.
Nash warns that if there are any changes regarding the border, and if truck drivers are required to self-isolate for 14 days, the province would be in “serious danger.”
“We are seen as an essential service provider and it is critical that trucks remain functional, mobile and supporting the needs of the response to COVID-19,” said Jude Groves, chairman of the AMTA board and director safety and training Rosenau Transport Ltd.
He notes most of what we see on groceries store shelves and at drug stores has come across the border.
“A total of 70 per cent of Canada’s GDP (gross domestic product) is reliant on items coming across the border,” said Grove.
If stores are struggling to replenish supplies to the extent they would like, it has probably more to do with the volume of goods flying off the shelves and people panic-buying. Nash says delays at the border are minimal and are more related to ensuring truckers are not ill when crossing.
Border officials have an extra thing to check for now to make sure there are no sick drivers, said Nash. The AMTA’s focus is on ensuring the supply chain continues to move and that safety is not compromised.