What is behind the ‘truckagedon’ blockades?

Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

The “truckagedon” blockades in Canada have been ongoing for over two weeks. It began when Canadian truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border were required to be vaccinated. The blockades have created chaos in Ottawa, Canada’s capital and on transportation routes between the two countriesTruckers in other countries are proposing similar actions, modeling their protests after the Canadian blockades. 

The protesters have been unyielding in their demands for the removal of mandates. Unfortunately, social media has provided a platform for inaccurate information that has influenced people about the vaccines, as well as the virus in general.

Yet, when most of us go to our physicians and they prescribe pharmaceuticals that may be a pill or an injection to treat a condition, do we balk at the prescribed remedy? Although we all have such a right, we typically trust the prescribing physicians, given the knowledge and expertise that they offer.

Perhaps then the problem is less about the vaccines and more about the mandate. 

So, why is a mandate warranted at this time?

If the virus could not be transmitted as easily as the current omicron variant has been, then the issue becomes moot. The problem is its high level of contagiousness. Although the vaccines are moderately protective against infections, they are highly effective in suppressing the severity of the disease so that those who become infected are much less likely to require hospitalization.

Given that different parts of Canada and the U.S. have experienced hospital demand surges with COVID-19 patientsthe preponderance of which are unvaccinated, any people traveling between the countries are best served to have the added protection offered by the vaccines if they become infected.

Note that all cross-border travelers must provide proof of vaccination, not just truckers. As such, cross border truckers are not being singled out — they are just the most visible group acting out in protest.

So, what do the truck blockades accomplish? 

Not much. They certainly disturb commerce, further fueling shortages of items in the supply chain that many of the very people creating the blockades may themselves need. For example, if medical devices or pharmaceuticals become in short supply, patient needs may go unmet, resulting in unnecessary complications and possibly even deaths. Shortages in automobile parts are forcing auto plants to shutdown, making it harder to fill demand for new vehicles and possibly obtain replacement parts. The supply chain risks grow the longer the blockades continue. 

On a practical note, to avoid the cross-border mandate, those who remain unwilling to take a vaccine might seek to limit their trucking efforts to one country, avoiding any border crossings.

But in reality, even that is not the issue.

Both the Canadian Trucking Alliance and Canada’s Teamster Union do not support the blockade protests. Moreover, around 90 percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, a number in line with Canadian vaccination ratesAmerican truckers have shown little support for the blockades

The trucking blockades are no more about trucks than Sept. 11 was about airplanes. The trucks are the vehicles that facilitate the disruptions. Sadly, the preponderance of people now participating and perpetuating the blockades may no longer have anything to do with trucking.  

Unfortunately, the trucker blockade is giving truckers a bad rap. They have become pawns in an anti-vaccine narrative, overtaken by people who have an agenda of their own.

When people who feel that they lack power also feel cornered, they are susceptible to taking drastic actions that do everyone, including themselves, more harm than good. The hijacking of the protest by non-truckers is disappointing at best and exploitive at worst. 

With “truckagedon”, the blockades will end when the truckers realize that their interests are best served by driving their trucks to move goods rather than using their trucks to stop goods from being moved. This will expose those who are keeping the blockades alive — and put an end to a charade that no longer serves any useful purpose.   

Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a founder professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a background in probability models. He applies his expertise in data-driven risk-based decision-making to evaluate and inform public policy.

Tags COVID-19 Pandemic Public health Sheldon H. Jacobson Vaccination vaccine mandate

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