New rules which will require all truckers crossing the Canada-U.S. border to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of this weekend are likely to further exacerbate supply chain challenges, an industry representative warns.

As of Saturday truck drivers entering Canada will have to present proof of vaccination and will no longer be granted an exemption that previously allowed all essential workers to travel back and forth freely.

The federal government has said that the new policy, which was previously announced in November, will impact about 8,000 unvaccinated truckers.

But Stephen Laskowski, who is the president of the Ontario Trucking Association, told CP24 on Wednesday that he believes the number is closer to 16,000.

“What will happen and already is happening is the supply chain is just adjusting to having less drivers. We already don't have enough drivers. So what is happening is there is coming to be a prioritization within our membership towards their customers,” Laskowski warned. “The companies who can be more aggressive are acquiring truck transportation to go across the Canada-U.S. border but the others who cannot be as aggressive will find it more challenging moving their product.”

Laskowski noted that the vaccination rate among cross-border trucks is similar to the vaccination rate in the general population but he said that there is a small percentage of drivers who are hesitant and “come Saturday there will be a significant departure of those individuals from the north-south border.”

He estimated that the impact will mean that trucking companies will lose 10 to 15 per cent of their workforce overnight, potentially compounding challenges that already exist amid an increase in absences due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“Of course we're working with the Government of Canada to increase the vaccination but as the doctor say we don't expect our country to ever get to 100 per cent and that's reflective of our industry as well. So we need to work and we need to continue to educate and move forward,” he said.