Some New Brunswick truckers are confused and frustrated by new isolation rules announced by the provincial government Friday.
Along with regular cross-border commuters, they are now expected to stay at home unless they’re getting necessities of life by way of curbside pickup or delivery.
“We were pretty disappointed,” Jean-Marc Picard, the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association executive director, tells Global News. “It really blindsided us. There was no consultation done, therefore, quite surprised.”
The tightened rules are only for New Brunswick truck drivers and cross-border commuters and they are in place regardless of the individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
“[Truck drivers] are probably the safest essential workers out there because their contact with others out there are so minimal,” says Art Jones, owner of RoadWolf Trucking Ltd.
Premier Blaine Higgs said Friday he understands new and changing rules “are not easy,” but swift action is needed.
“Unfortunately, travel-related cases of COVID-19 continue to increase and the variants are putting New Brunswickers at risk,” he said.
To that, Jones questions how many cases came from local truckers who leave the province.
A protest was organized by residents on both sides of the New Brunswick–Nova Scotia land border, with some brief shutdowns of the Trans-Canada Highway Sunday.
Some truckers took part, including Adam Stiles who lives in Sackville, N.B.
Stiles says traffic was stopped for about 20 minutes on a couple of occasions, but not at the request of the truckers.
“All we did was park our rigs on the side of the road… we left the left lane open,” he says. “We had no intention of ever blocking traffic. All we wanted to do was slow down traffic with signs and let people know why we were there.”
Stiles says the roadblocks were organized by people who were living on both sides of the provincial border, but he says “we asked them a few times to please open… we’re not here to close the road.”
The groups worked together and reopened the lane, he says.
But Stiles does oppose the rule changes announced Friday, which came into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
“Myself and many others, I mean, we don’t want to go … immediately into isolation every time we return. I may return two or three times a week, which just means I’m working in isolation and come home and put immediately isolation,” he says.
“I’ve always been careful, I know most people have been careful. I don’t go into grocery stores and stores with shopping, but there are things — essential things and things — that I need to do.”
“I think the solution is… It’s not to be a mandatory isolation,” Stiles says. “We need to make it a voluntary isolation — modified isolation — requirement.”
But for Art Jones, who has drivers travelling into P.E.I. and dropping off trailers on the Quebec side of the Edmundston–Quebec border, wonders how it will impact the industry.
“If [drivers] have to stay in when they come home, a lot of truckers are going to say “I’m not going outside New Brunswick.”
Higgs says the rules will likely last until the end of May.