Some Alaska trucking companies face competing wages from Lower 48

Alaska trucking companies facing competing wages from Lower 48
Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Truck driving companies in Alaska continue to face struggles connected to the Canadian vaccine mandate that was implemented for truckers last month on Jan. 15.

“Drivers having to be vaccinated to get through the border, that’s 99.99% of any problem that any of us are having now,” said Dick Rankins, owner of Sleipner Transport LLC in Anchorage.

Since the mandate went into place, Rankins said his company has lost around 80% of the employees due to the vaccine mandate. About 90% of truckers in Canada are already vaccinated, according to the Associated Press, and the U.S. has the same vaccine requirement for truckers crossing the border.

Protests by truckers and others upset by the mandate have been ongoing in Canada — a key bridge linking Canada and Detroit reopened after protests closed it for nearly a week, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to restore order.

“We are just very restricted to the amount or the number of drivers that we can draw from to come north to Alaska,” Rankins said.

Rankins said this has had a significant impact on his company’s revenue.

“I imagine I could be hauling probably six, eight loads a week more than I am right now, no problem,” he said.

In addition, the industry as a whole continues to face a trucker shortage seen nationwide.

“With the gigantic trucker shortage in the Lower 48, the rates have come up substantially down there,” Rankins said.

Originally, Rankins said truckers in Alaska would make more than those in the Lower 48, but that’s not true anymore.

“With the rates exploding down south, and the vaccine mandate, I mean it’s just the perfect storm to eliminate a bunch of drivers to come to Alaska,” Rankins said.

This has left more companies short-staffed.

“The trucks can just run around in the Lower 48 and pick up lots of good work down there instead of running to Alaska,” Rankins said. “And they don’t have to get vaccinated in the Lower 48.”

Rankins said truckers can now make good money in the Lower 48 without ever having to worry about crossing the border.

“So they don’t want to get vaccinated. They can make decent money down south, so they just scratched Alaska,” Rankins said.

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