The proliferation of cases in the United States does not discourage truckers
The proliferation of COVID-19 cases in the United States does not yet seem to have discouraged truckers from crossing the border, particularly to secure food supplies, but that does not prevent the industry from keeping a watchful eye on what’s going on.
If there are concerns among some drivers, the Association du Camionnage du Québec (ACQ) – like other large companies – has not noticed a wave of refusal among these when they are request to go to American territory.
“It is certain that the (latest) news can influence certain drivers, explained its president and chief executive officer, Marc Cadieux, Wednesday during a telephone interview. However, the disadvantage of isolation for the trucker profession has become a quality. ”
To curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Ottawa and Washington agreed last week to close the Canada-US border at crossings deemed non-essential. Truckers were notably exempted from this measure in order to allow trade to continue and the Trudeau government does not seem to intend, for the moment, to change anything.
“We have to think twice about how to deal with people who provide essential services,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa during the daily press conference. of federal ministers.
3300 trucks cross the border daily
According to the most recent government data, which dates back to 2018, some 3,300 trucks cross daily, in both directions, the 32 border crossings between Quebec and the United States.
In the past few days, however, the situation has deteriorated rapidly south of the border. This in particular prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue a warning to the effect that this country could soon become the next epicenter of the pandemic and thus overtake Europe in terms of the numbers of cases of infection and death. New York State is particularly hard hit.
According to RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin, a transportation specialist, many rest areas are closed in the United States, limiting the number of places that drivers can temporarily park.
“On the loading docks, truckers are also asked about the places they frequented,” he wrote in a recent report sent to his customers. This makes truckers reluctant to travel to the states hardest hit by COVID-19, such as New York and Washington. ”
Cadieux, who spoke with government officials earlier today, said it was agreed to repeat the maintenance rules, particularly for companies where there is no not always find the same driver behind the wheel of a tractor unit.
“There are also a lot of corporate actions to help drivers,” said the president and chief executive officer of the ACQ. This allows them to be less tempted to stop on the way because they eat and sleep in their truck. ”
On a weekly basis, Montreal-based Trans-West’s tractor units cross the Canada-United States border almost 200 times to transport food – fresh and frozen products – from California and Florida, for example.
Even though the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating in American territory, the drivers’ response remains “very good”, according to the company’s vice-president, Pascal Gaudet.
“We feel a commitment from them,” he said. Most say, “As long as I’m in house confinement, I’m going to be locked in the truck.” ”
There have been “a few cases” where some have been reluctant to go to the United States, but according to Mr. Gaudet, it is a minority. No one is forced to cross the border, he added.
In addition to the numerous measures deployed internally and affecting its approximately 500 employees, Trans-West is preparing to go the extra mile to support its drivers.
“We have an internal kitchen, it’s a service offered by the company,” said Mr. Gaudet. As of Monday, to encourage our truckers not to stop, we will offer them all meals to cover the duration of their trip. ”
Groupe Robert, headquartered in Boucherville, recognizes that the explosion of coronavirus cases south of the border “puts pressure” on drivers, explained the vice-president of public affairs for the company, Jean-Robert Lessard.
However, for the moment, we have not seen a wave of refusal within the company which operates a fleet of 1,400 tractors and a fleet of 3,000 trailers.
“Some people may say” I don’t want to go, “said Lessard. At this time, we will try to deploy them on something else. We are very sensitive to requests, but I couldn’t tell you that we have had many. ”
In the United States, Groupe Robert serves most of the twenty or so states that lie east of the Mississippi.