The trucking industry is urging the federal government to reverse its plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for truckers or risk severe damage to supply chains.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that truck drivers will be required to show proof of vaccination beginning on Jan. 15. 

According to estimates by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the mandate could take 10% to 20% of Canadian truckers off the road. That would equal approximately 12,000 to 22,000 essential workers who would have to leave the job if Trudeau’s edict comes into effect. 

The impacts of the mandate could have consequences across the whole continent and significantly hit smaller businesses, spokespeople have warned. 

“We’ll be seeing shortages of goods in stores,” said President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty. 

CTA president Stephen Laskowski warned that “this is not a trucking issue at all. This is a supply chain issue that can have severe ripple effects throughout the entire North American economy.” 

“It hasn’t been easy, but the Canadian trucking industry has continued to move the economy through the global pandemic as efficiently as possible despite continuous challenges and obstacles,” Laskowski added. “We have done that by working with governments and health care experts to implement health and safety protocols that keep our workforce safe while also ensuring factories keep operating and store shelves remain full.”

On Thursday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took the Liberals to task, accusing them of jeopardizing the integrity of Canada’s already struggling supply chains. 

“We will be short tens of thousands of truckers if the government doesn’t very quickly address this issue,” said O’Toole.  “That doesn’t mean that I don’t think people shouldn’t be vaccinated; it means we have to deal with the reality of the fact that there will be a small number of unvaccinated.” 

“I don’t think shaming and causing division is the way to address hesitancy – that’s Mr. Trudeau’s approach. Our approach is actually getting people back to work, not dividing people on health.” 

Conservative MP and Transport Critic Melissa Lantsman also urged her counterpart Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to reverse course in a letter this week to avoid the negative impacts such a decision would carry. 

Canada’s supply chains have already been under stress in recent months while inflation rates continue to skyrocket. 

The country has been racked with the worst inflation levels since 2003. According to polls, 87% of Canadians are worried about the current price spikes.