Protests over Canada’s vaccine mandates have shut down major trade routes with the US, disrupting supply chains that are yet to fully recover from the pandemic.
Why are Truck Drivers Protesting?
Over the past two weeks, thousands of Canadian truckers have been protesting Canada’s cross-border COVID-19 vaccine requirements, under which truck drivers with cross-border routes are required to get vaccinated in order to avoid the standard 14-day quarantine upon their return to Canada. Experts believe that the protests, which have gone on despite over 90% of the affected truckers thought to be fully vaccinated, are risking driver shortages and supply chain disruptions.
Known as the Freedom Convoy, the protests have resulted in consequential blockages on points in the US-Canada border through which most of the traded goods between both countries pass. It has drawn both criticism and praise across the spectrum, with personalities like comedian and radio host Russel Brand and billionaire Elon Musk having expressed their support for the truckers.
While the protest has been largely peaceful, it has affected the daily lives of many Canadian residents in areas where the protests are being held, mainly Ottawa, Ontario. There have also been several reports of violence and authorities have made several arrests over the weekend, as the city has been placed under a state of emergency.
The Protests Could Affect Ecommerce Supply Chains
Ecommerce entrepreneurs could feel the disruptions both in Canada but elsewhere as well, particularly in the United States. The United States is Canada's largest trading partner but Canada is also the United States' largest trading partner as well, even ahead of China. The largest border cross between the United States and Canada has already been blocked, jeopardizing cross-border trade between the United States and Canada.
The bigger risk to ecommerce sellers is if the trucker protests moves into a wider global protest. New Zealand has already seen a Canadian-inspired trucker protest and the Department of Homeland Security has warned similar protests could occur in America, particularly around the Super Bowl. As most ecommerce sellers are well aware of, global logistics have been extremely fragile in recent months and any further disruptions would only make matters worse for sellers.
Even if the protests do not make their way to America, there could be a trickle down effect such as further worsening of the chassis shortage currently delaying many shipments.
Disruptions are Already Being Felt
As the protests grow, several portions of the US-Canada border have been blocked by huge trucks and vehicles, and supply chain disruptions are already being felt in some industries.
A recent blockade is plaguing the Ambassador Bridge, which is considered the biggest and busiest trade route linking Canada and the US (Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario). It carries 40,000 commuters and over $300 million worth of goods across the border every day, accounting for roughly 25% of all trade between the two countries.
The blockade has caused delays and production cuts for auto manufacturers like Ford and Toyota. Dozens of business leaders have called for an end to the blockade, as hauliers were forced to re-route and travel hundreds more miles to cross over into the US.
The on-going strain in the supply chain could trickle down from automakers and affect retail goods and food, with calls from the food industry to relax vaccine mandates on truckers over fears of empty shelves in the coming months.
The coming weeks will reveal whether the supply chain disruptions will massively impact the ecommerce ecosystem. As of writing, the protests in Canada show no signs of slowing down, and similar protests have formed in some parts of the US, France, and New Zealand.