New protocol is in the midst of being drafted, steps that will guide B.C. truck drivers on measures of health and safety, when making cross-border trips during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Aldergrove Star files)

‘Business as usual’: Fraser Valley truckers crossing U.S. border despite COVID-19

B.C. Trucking Association is asking them to self-quarantine upon returning home, on days off

Despite health officials asking British Columbians to not leave the country “it’s business as usual” for Fraser Valley trucking companies, as goods continue to cross the B.C.-Washington State border.

That’s according to the president of the B.C. Trucking Association, David Earle, whose advocacy organization represents 12,000 fleets from 400 trucking companies across the province.

There hasn’t been any decrease in truckers crossing, he said, even with news on Thursday from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that residents should self-isolate for 14 days upon their return from any U.S. travel. due to the recent spread of COVID-19.

Henry clarified that truckers are exempt from this week’s sweeping travel advisory, and should have their own systems for hygiene and symptom-assessment.

In response, Earle responded “the B.C. government does not have the authority to stop cross-border travel.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan is putting pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to increase federal restrictions on land border crossings and “up their game,” Horgan told reporters Friday.

RELATED: B.C. calls on Trudeau to tighten border crossings for COVID-19

The Langley-based trucking association has been working to draft a “best practices” model for tens of thousands of truck drivers who will make the drive to-and-from the U.S. – many through Washington State which currently has more than 550 confirmed infections.

The job is contingent upon a practice that’s risen in popularity since COVID-19 has infected more than 60 in B.C.

“Social distancing,” Earle elaborated. “It’s 99 per cent of the job for truck drivers. They’re almost always isolated in their trucks.”

The trucking protocol – which is being created with agreement from B.C. governing bodies – is asking truckers to voluntarily quarantine themselves on days off after trips to the U.S., Earle elaborated.

The guidelines also recommend that truckers regularly clean their vehicles, equipment, and hands with sanitary supplies provided from their company.

Earle wants it to ensure the safety of all B.C. drivers, he said. The protocol is still subject to approval from B.C.’s Emergency Health Services (EHS).

READ MORE: B.C. recommends no travel outside Canada amid Coronavirus pandemic

If the frequency of cross-border travel hasn’t changed for Fraser Valley truckers since the spike of COVID-19 transmissions in B.C – then what has?

Questions truckers are being asked by U.S. and Canadian border guards, Earle answered.

They include: “Where have you been? How are you feeling?”

Canada’s Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said such screening measures are used to assess potential health risks of travellers being processed.

“Entry screening alone is not a guarantee against the possible spread of this new virus,” Gadbois-St-Cyr admitted.

“But is an important public health tool during periods of uncertainty and part of a multilayered government response strategy.”

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