COVID-19: Cross Border Movement & Other Impacts

Posted on Mon, 2020-03-16 15:58
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BCTA has been closely monitoring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article combines recent updates on government health measures and related topics that Dave Earle, BCTA president & CEO, has been sharing directly with members via e-mail, from March 12 to 14, 2020.

Note that events related to this situation are unfolding rapidly, and BCTA will be communicating directly with members as they do. This article includes information current as of its publication date.

Cross-border trucking

On March 12, 2020, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC's provincial health officer, recommended in their joint public statement against “non-essential” cross-border travel and asked individuals who must travel outside of Canada to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning.

BCTA acted quickly to clarify with government that “cross-border trucking” is not included in either of these measures. As a result, on March 13, Dr. Henry verified in her public update that cross-border trucking is an essential service, and the Ministry of Health released an “essential services” letter excluding the trucking industry and a few other services / workers from 14-day quarantines, with the caveat that these truck drivers and other workers crossing the border must self-monitor daily.

We must stress that this is not a declaration of “business as usual” for our industry. Each of us has a duty to ensure we are doing everything practicable to minimize opportunities for transmission.

Click here for the essential services letter, which also includes other advice for operating safely.

(Note that this version of the letter refers to a ban on events of more than 250 people, which has since been updated to more than 50 people, and that references to ski hills and other community services are no longer current.)

Canada Border Service Agency and US Customs and Border Protection

In addition to the provincial Ministry of Health, BCTA confirmed with CBSA and US CBP that the movement of goods is considered “essential” and not subject to the non-essential travel recommendations.

That said, there are important considerations all companies should be aware of with respect to cross-border movements, as follows:

  • Both CBSA and CBP are specifically taking measures to assess all drivers, including commercial drivers, crossing our shared border and are directing drivers that exhibit signs of COVID-19 to the appropriate officials. We strongly encourage all carriers to assess your drivers before they cross the border and take the necessary measures if they show COVID-19 symptoms, including contacting 811 (the HealthLinkBC line) to speak to a health practitioner, and even requesting that drivers with symptoms self-isolate until they are assessed.

  • Any company staff that travel for non-essential purposes (e.g., personal travel, to attend a conference, etc.) do not fall under the “essential international travel,” and would be subject to the recommendation by the Province of BC and Government of Canada to self-quarantine for 14 days. Update: as of March 16, the provincial health officer is asking British Columbians to stay home when they can.

As well, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has provided hours of service flexibility for commercial motor vehicle drivers directly involved in providing emergency services related to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for details. 

BC hours of service regulation

BCTA has engaged with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in support of an hours of service declaration being issued in BC as has been done in the US.

Note: while we anticipate provincial clarification in the coming days, such a declaration has not yet been made and is NOT in place today.

Regulatory relief for emergency situations is provided for through BC regulations such as Motor Vehicle Act Regulations Section 37.11(d), which covers the HOS exemption for pandemic/pestilence.

Specifically, MVAR specifies that Part 3 - HOS, 37.11 does not apply to a driver who is driving “a commercial motor vehicle transporting passengers or goods for the purpose of providing relief in the case of an earthquake, flood, fire, famine, drought, epidemic, pestilence or other disaster.”

Similar to previous emergency relief, such as response to BC’s wildfires, implementation of this section of the regulation DOES NOT override section 37.12 of the MVAR in that a carrier must not allow a driver to drive if impaired by fatigue, or who would be likely to jeopardize the safety or health of the public, the driver or other employees. Please see section 37.12 below:

MVAR 37.12 A carrier, shipper, consignee or other person must not request, require or allow a driver to drive and a driver must not drive if

(a) the driver's faculties are impaired by fatigue, illness or a mental or physical infirmity to the point that it is unsafe for the driver to drive,

(b) driving would jeopardize or be likely to jeopardize the safety or health of the public, the driver or the employees of the carrier,

(c) the driver is the subject of an out-of-service declaration, or

(d) the driver, in doing so, would not be in compliance with this Part.”

BCTA expects MoTI to issue a notice to industry to that effect soon and will provide an update.

Safe practices

In addition to the civic duty created by direction from the provincial health officer for businesses to actively contain the spread of this virus, every employer is subject, at a minimum, to general duty provisions in their applicable Occupational Health and Safety Regulation relating to the prevention of transmission of infectious disease.

In response to COVID-19, motor carriers should take the following measures:

  • Implement a company-wide, self-distancing policy for all employees requiring a minimum physical distance of 1-2 meters between individuals. This includes avoiding standard greetings that require physical contact such as shaking hands.
  • Increase regularly scheduled cleaning with a disinfecting agent such as antimicrobial disposable wipes or a bleach solution, particularly inside each power unit and shared spaces.
  • Request that all drivers, as part of their post-trip inspection, wipe down all shared spaces with a disinfecting agent. This includes the steering wheel, dashboard, radio/telematics devices, door handles, gear shift, etc.  
  • Where feasible, provide drivers with a suitable power unit and sufficient supplies (e.g., food, water, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.) to enable self-isolation during a trip.
  • Require drivers to thoroughly wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after fueling or visiting a public establishment. See: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
  • Request that all drivers avoid any unnecessary public establishments or mass gatherings, unless approved by dispatch.
  • Request that all drivers, after returning to their home terminal from outside BC (e.g., the US or elsewhere in Canada), to self-isolate on their days off.
  • Require drivers to self-declare to dispatch and to 811 or their health care practitioner, if they have come in contact with anyone who has COVID-19 and self-isolate if instructed by a health practitioner.
  • Require drivers, if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, dry cough, etc.) to call 811 or their health practitioner, and self-isolate for up to 14 days pending test results and unless instructed otherwise by a health practitioner.  

As well, if you have not already, inform your employees about your sick leave policy and provisions, including the federal government’s recent decision to waive the one-week waiting period for people who are in quarantine or have been directed to self-isolate and are claiming Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.

Financial impact

BCTA recognizes that COVID-19 is having a significant financial impact on all our members’ operations, particularly with our motor coach members given the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s cancellation of cruise ships until July 1, 2020.

We are in conversation with the provincial government in support of financial relief for our members affected by the travel/tourism-related COVID-19 measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus, particularly related to international travel, cancellation of events with more than 250 people (and, more recently, gatherings of more than 50 people), and the cancellation of cruise ship traffic. We will provide further updates as soon as possible.

The federal government has announced a $10 billion credit facility to lend money to businesses under stress as a result of COVID-19. The funds will be available through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, both crown-owned entities, to help companies access cash. Most of the money is intended to go to small- and medium-sized businesses.

  • Government of Canada’s economic measures
  • More information on the assistance options available from BDC

In conclusion

BCTA will continue to provide regular updates as information becomes available. As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.