Quebec fleet focuses on recruiting after Covid-19 layoffs

MONTREAL, Que. - Transport Herve Lemieux wasn't the only fleet that had to temporarily lay off employees because of the economic impact of Covid-19. But the upturn didn't take too long to emerge. Two sectors served by the carrier - hardware and construction materials, as well as food - were designated essential services.

Business volumes stabilized. In the case of food, workloads increased as more households cooked from home and restaurants were silenced.

Herve Lemieux drivers, like others throughout the industry, have now added cleaning protocols to their work days. (Photo: Transport Herve Lemieux)

"With the clients we have, it works well," said fleet president Guy Lemieux. Finding the required drivers hasn't been easy, though, even in the time of an economic downturn.

It is in the midst of a recruiting drive because some of the laid off drivers decided not to return. "There is no single reason. There are several," he said of the reason why some drivers chose to stay home.

In some cases, the furloughed workers don't have the qualifications to drive the forklifts needed to deliver construction materials, or simply don't want to be assigned work they're not familiar with.

"The guy who drives the reefer, he doesn't necessarily drive a flatbed."

- Guy Lemieux, Transport Herve Lemieux

"The guy who drives the reefer, he doesn't necessarily drive a flatbed," Lemieux said. Others are older, or have pre-existing health conditions that leave them worried about becoming infected with Covid-19, and choose to stay at home. There are also family realities that have changed with the closure of childcare services, making it necessary for parents to stay home.

The gradual reopening of schools could be a gamechanger, but it is too early to tell. Still, opportunities are emerging. "We have several good candidates.

We receive CVs every day. It's encouraging," Lemieux added. While the general public has come to appreciate trucking in recent weeks, it's still too early for that to have any affect on the rise of candidates. "A plumber who would like to become a trucker, I think it's still a bit early," the fleet president said." But he believes the available labor pool could expand over time, if opportunities are lacking in other sectors.

In the meantime, Transport Herve Lemieux has found its bearings during the pandemic. "Today is going well because we found the routine in chaos. The guys got used to it," he said. "They clean their steering wheels.

We take care to keep our distance."

It's the "new normal."

Trucking HR Canada believes the driver shortage will continue to intensify, even in the face of an economic downturn.

Drivers have mixed feelings, of course.

"We miss family, children and grandchildren, but at the same time we are happy to work," Lemieux said. "In February, I would have spoken with these people and perhaps they would not have told me, 'I am happy to work.'"

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