Truckers, Covid & Inflation; How North America’s Backbone Is Harming The Economy For Everyone



Written By: Anton Sawyer



Truckers, Covid & Inflation; How North America’s Backbone Is Harming The Economy For Everyone


Having survived Covid twice has made me more sensitive to the stupidity of others when it comes to the way different people are handling the pandemic. Add in the fact that my father was a long-haul truck driver for over 40 years, and you have the perfect storm for today's piece; a look at the controversy surrounding the Covid vaccine mandates in the US and Canada for truck drivers, and how our nation's backbone is making the worst possible choices, thereby negatively impacting us all.




 

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Over the last couple of years, the moons have begun aligning perfectly for the current calamity we find ourselves in when it comes to the plight of truck drivers both in the US and Canada. Between the existing driver shortages, both the Biden and Trudeau vaccine mandates on international travel, and an overwhelming sense of hubris when it comes to “freedom” being egged on by American conservatives, it was only a matter of time before supply chains would be impacted on both sides of the border with rising inflation as the outcome. When you break the numbers down, the writing on the wall is pretty clear and shows how these masters of the road are a key component to the rising cost of goods that we’ve begun the 2020s with.


Do not underestimate the importance of truckers.


The $791.7 billion American trucking industry hauls 72.5% of all freight transported in the United States and employs about 6% of all full-time workers as of 2021. Of course, when you peer through the mists of time, you see that these numbers are down from even three years ago. The ongoing truck driver shortage is now estimated at 80,000, up from 61,000 just three years ago. A new study by Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the industry will have to recruit 1 million new drivers within the next nine years to replace retiring drivers. Though there have been changes to regulations during this time—including attempts to kill regulations preventing those under the age of 21 from driving, thereby allowing those 18 and older to drive from coast to coast—the dip is still occurring. Once all the specifics of both the Biden and Trudeau vaccine mandates had been revealed, the ATA knew they would become public enemy number one for truckers. The ATA met with Biden in October of 2021 and warned him of the potential outcome if truckers were faced with the mandates. The gravest warning came from the fact that the ATA knew that many drivers would likely leave the industry rather than get vaccinated or take weekly tests. So much so that they estimated that about 37% of drivers could leave or retire owing to the mandate.


As a side-thought, maybe this is one of the main reasons Biden restructured the Canadian/American tariffs in 2021 —tariffs that would ultimately end up hurting the American economy overall.


As the time began ticking down towards the enactment of the mandates, it looked like the ATA's predictions were going to come true. Earlier in 2022, within 30 days of the mandates beginning, the Canadian Trucking Alliance estimated there were still 12,000 truckers who would not be allowed into the US due to the prohibition. This doesn’t include unvaccinated American truckers, so if the ATA number of 37% comes to fruition, we could be seeing an overall shortage of both Canadian and American truckers that numbers over 100,000.


This kind of deficit is naturally going to turn into supply-chain shortages for both nations. Even when looking at just the automotive industry by itself, for example, you begin to see how dire the situation can become.


Doug Betts, president of the global automotive division at J.D. Power (a data and analytics company focused on the auto industry) said the border restrictions will make the automotive supply chain shortage issue worse. He noted that auto parts come from all over the world and one obstruction in the chain can significantly slow or stop production. “By the time you map out the supply chain, it’s just a spider web going everywhere,” he said.


Bill Hanvey, President of the Auto Care Association, also made a statement bolstering this supply chain problem. “Due to the current supply chain issues and ship shortages that the American automotive manufacturers are facing … we believe any additional strains placed on the supply chain have the potential to exacerbate this situation and could cause the demands on both the automotive manufacturers and the aftermarket to rise even further.” Keep in mind this example is just ONE industry. Because of how vast our economies are in North America, and how intertwined they are, you could see how this could get out of control very quickly.


Around the same time as the Canadian mandates went into effect, truckers from the Great White North started to follow their conservative brethren in the US by forming a “Freedom Convoy” and sending a caravan of 50,000 Canadian truckers to Ottawa in protest of the freedom-killing vaccine mandates. Not content in merely watching their maple leafed buddies have fun, the American conservative faction has thrown as much support towards the protests as possible.


First, there were many GoFundMe pages set up by conservatives to financially support the protest along with any and all ballyhoo that accompanied it. Bruce Heyman, who was the ambassador to Canada under Barack Obama, said groups in the United States should stop getting involved in "disruptive activities in Canada." "Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop," he wrote on Twitter. This statement came as GoFundMe closed a fundraising page set up by groups in the US to help support the truckers' protests in Canada around the same time. It is worth noting that there are still other funding pages out there attempting the same disruption.


Also, conservative juggernaut Fox News host Tucker Carlson got involved by claiming that the convoy of Canadian truckers leading a massive anti-vaccine protest in Ottawa are being treated like terrorists. "These are Canadian citizens who drive trucks for a living, but they're being treated like a terror group," the host said. This of course is a lie. Really, the only legal repercussion that has occurred since the date of this publication is that truckers in Ottawa have been ordered to stop honking their horns in an ongoing protest by Judge Hugh McLean. Their constant honking, which will now be silenced for 10 days, has been a nuisance locally to both residents and businesses. McLean’s statement on the ruling I think sums up his reasoning perfectly; "Tooting a horn is not an expression of any great thought I'm aware of."


To recap, we have truckers who account for a huge part of our commerce—both nationwide and internationally with Canada. Though we already have a huge shortage of those drivers, we could be losing tens of thousands more in the near future. This is going to have a massive impact on supply chains, thereby causing more shortages. These shortages are going to help prices spike. This is all tied together by the Republican party cheering on all these events taking place under the guise of “freedom,” all while complaining about levels of inflation rising under the Biden administration.


I wish a lack of self-awareness could be painful. Something akin to stubbing your toe, or a brain freeze perhaps?


From Tucker Carlson to Sean Hannity to Glenn Beck, every conservative news pundit makes it a point to mention the inflation percentages at least two or three times per show. They have been drilling it over and over again that the reason you are paying more for at the counter for your sundries is due to Biden’s failed plans ONLY. That the single cause of every piece of inflation is on Biden’s shoulders and is NOT impacted by any mitigating circumstances. But even removing the political pressure, it’s hard for me to imagine a trucker refusing to transport a truckload of groceries to any location because of a vaccine refusal and then wondering why the prices of those same groceries are continuing to rise. It’s “Supply and Demand 101”—if people want something and there isn’t a lot of it, then it gets more expensive.


Fighting the scourges of Covid has already taken a lot out of humanity. From the deaths of millions worldwide to those who are still being subjected to side effects months after having fought the virus, to those in Washington who continue to fight each other over the best method to use when coming to a course of action, Covid has helped bring out some of the worst in our species. Like I’ve said before, I think it’s time that we looked at ourselves as being a primary culprit of the continued flourishing of the Covid virus and take accountability. Sadly, to fight that kind of a battle would require common sense; something this article has shown that millions simply don’t possess.

 

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