Alaska lawmakers call on national leaders in Canada, US to get rid of vaccine mandates for truckers

Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 1:40 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska state lawmakers hope their request for an end to vaccine mandates for truckers driving goods through Canada will help curtail instances of empty store shelves around Alaska.

Sen. Shelley Hughes and Rep. Ken McCarty co-authored a letter to President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that ask for the immediate elimination of COVID-19 mandates for truck drivers entering both countries.

“The store shelves empty, building supply strained, auto repair parts, those kind of things are moving back and forth across the border,” Hughes said. “We need to make sure that those critical commodities continue to be available.”

The U.S. will require all truck drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can enter the country on Jan. 22. Canada imposed a similar measure Jan. 15th.

The American Trucking Associations estimates it could lose up to 37% of its truckers because of the mandates. The Canadian Trucking Alliance fears it could lose up to 15% of its work force.

More than 20 lawmakers signed the letters. The current shortages bring back memories of the early days of the pandemic when people stocked up on paper products. There are fears it could happen again.

“Would produce be coming from the (Lower) 48 through Canada to Alaska, and seeing less and less food on the shelves, and watching this phenomenon take place,” McCarty said.

There are concerns things could get worse at grocery stores around Alaska.

“The majority of the grocery goods that you see on stores shelves come through the Port of Alaska,” Alaska Trucking Association Executive Director Joe Michel said. “Anything that doesn’t fit in a Connex is coming up from the Lower 48 goes through Canada.”

The Alaskan lawmakers and truckers have an ally on the other side of the border.

“Common sense tells us that we are at the peak of supply chain constraints across North America, around the world, huge inflation, and we can’t afford to lose potentially thousands of truckers on our roads” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

He and supporters do not want to see more empty store shelves in either country.

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