Bringing in new blood

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. — David Morneau is rev’d up and ready to drop the clutch in the search for answers to the crisis that refuses to die: how to attract more people to Quebec’s trucking industry.

A fourth-generation member of family-owned Groupe Morneau, he lays out the problem in unambiguous terms. “There is a problem. It is not just a driver problem. It is hard to find people to fill all the positions in the transportation industry. It is for every sector. Mechanics, IT, customer service, you name it.”

David Morneau hopes to help the Quebec trucking industry resolve the shortage of qualified drivers.

Appointed this June as Chairman of the Board of the Fondation pour la formation en transport routier (Foundation for training in road transport) and as president of the Workforce Committee of the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA), Morneau is enthusiastic about helping to avoid a workforce crash that could come in as little as five years.

“I have the knowledge of what is going on in the training in the industry. I understand the needs across Quebec. I’ve worked in all the different departments of my company and worked with other companies in the industry,” Morneau says.

The shout has been out forever, it seems, that a crippling driver shortage is lurking around the next bend, but a 2013 report by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) removes all doubt, according to Morneau.

“This was the first time we got statistics from the Conference Board of Canada. The lack of statistics was a big problem. Now we have the statistics.”

The numbers vary, depending on industry productivity and when older drivers decide to turn in their keys. The CBC estimates that the shortage by 2020 could range from 16,600 drivers Canada-wide, with 3,600 of them in Quebec, to over 33,000 drivers, with 6,900 empty seats in Quebec.

Granted, the Conference Board report is based on 2006 Census and Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey data, but if this problem ever got licked since 2006, no one is making any confessions. Keep an eye out for new numbers as Camo-route launches a study later this year of what the industry needs for drivers, etc., in the different sectors.

Meanwhile, Morneau will be digging into his personal tool chest of trucking savoir-faire to help light some fires under the collective bottoms of the industry, government and schools.

Long before he got his Class 1 licence, he worked as a young teenager with the moving division Demanagement Morneau.

“I was on the road with Quebec drivers all summer long,” Morneau recalls.

In 2004 he graduated from the CEGEP Garneau in Quebec in logistics and transportation studies and in 2008 from the Universite du Quebec, a Montreal School of Management with certificates in administration, administration road transport as well as a certificate in business law from the University of Montreal. He spent some of his university summers as a dispatcher in Mississauga with Canada Cartage.

His curriculum vitae also includes rotations through every department at Groupe Morneau, including dispatch, special projects, IT, customer service and human resources. He drove trucks for a half-year before becoming terminal manager at Morneau Eskimo, the company’s refrigerated food division. He became business manager there in 2012, his current day job, but he won’t hesitate to steer a truckload of goods around the city if needed.

The Foundation and the Working Group work in concert. The Foundation is about money. It helps fund students still in school and graduates; ie., drivers from the two provincial driving schools, CEGEP students, university students, younger and older people. It also gives money for new program development.

The Working Committee is about operations. It fosters communication between all sectors of training, which is a topic about which Morneau wants tougher questions to be asked and more pressure to be applied.

One of the goals of the Working Group is to ask government to review the entrance requirements for getting into the transport programs. Some requirements, Morneau believes, such as very high math skills, are not properly matched to the jobs and are unjustifiable roadblocks.

Morneau wants to investigate the seeming lack of interest in the field; ie., how can it be that one CEGEP transportation program he knows of didn’t have a single applicant last year? He wants everyone rowing in the same direction, toward the same goal.

“My first meeting as president is on Sept. 22. My goal is to put every type of training in the transportation industry on the table and have everyone working in concert. It is sad for the industry if the organizations are not working together,” Morneau says.

The Foundation and Working Group meet a half-dozen times a year. Six people are common to the Foundation Board and the Working Group. After the Foundation meets for two hours, the rest of the Working Group joins them for another hour of talks. Both groups also meet shortly before the QTA’s annual Congress and, Morneau observes, interest in their goings on is growing.

“Now, when the board is sitting with the (QTA), more people want to hear where we are on projects. The transportation companies know what is going on (shortages). They want to solve the problem,” he says.

“I have a really nice team. We are involved. We want to do things. We are competitors but we are all in the same industry.”

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