Canada’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics has published data indicating that the February trucker blockade of Canada’s border with the United States had little impact on cross-border trade. The blockade, which began in late January, was staged in protest at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Covid-19 policies, particularly vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers.
The blockade was expected to sharply impact cross-border trade in North America, but according to the bureau, cross-border trade conducted by trucks rose by 0.3% month-on-month. Mexico’s truck freight declined by 0.5%, although Canada’s cross-border truck freight rose by 1.5%.
Trucker Protest Against Mandates
Anti-covid-vaccine protesters were angered by vaccine mandates in the United States and Canada, blocking unvaccinated foreigners, including truck drivers, from crossing their borders. Canada’s vaccine mandate went into effect on 15 January and requires U.S. truckers to prove they have been vaccinated before they can enter the country. The U.S. vaccine mandate began on 22 January and requires all cross-border truckers to be vaccinated.
Protestors idled their trucks and vehicles across roadways in some of Canada’s largest cities in what the anti-vaccine protesters termed a “Freedom Convoy.” The blockade hindered travel across the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit. The blockade extended all the way to Ottawa. Blocking access to North America’s busiest international crossing was expected to make already existing supply chain disruptions more severe. At the time, Trudeau addressed parliament saying “Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop.”
Nonetheless, although there was disruption to traffic, it was not as great as first feared. Among the United States’ five ports, only Detroit experienced a dip in cross-border traffic, declining by 15%. Rail freight there also decreased, by 18%. Typically, truck freight at the crossing is stable in February, within 1% of January’s numbers. In 2015, cross-border freight declined by 8%.
Freight Company Effects
Freight Companies had a good February. Canada has experienced a net increase in trade hauled by trucks in 2022. Until February, Canada’s cross-border trade had been in decline, dipping by 6% in December, and 5% in January. February proved a positive month for cross-border trade despite the protests.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has encouraged truck drivers to get vaccinated and comply with the mandates. In a statement released on 29 January, the alliance noted that the “vast majority” of truckers had indeed been in compliance with the mandates. They also raised concerns that a “great number” of the protestors had “no connection to the trucking industry.”
The alliance’s statement echoed remarks by some demonstrators who spoke to Fox News and expressed their disappointment that some protestors had no connection to the convoy.
With the blockade and protests over, trade numbers are expected to pick up further.