Lafarge forges ahead with safety in mind

by Sonia Straface

The saying goes, if you bought it, a truck brought it.

But the industry goes so much deeper than that. Not only is trucking responsible for having store shelves fully stocked, it’s the trucks that also supply the materials to help the store itself be built. Without trucks, there’d be no food in the grocery store, of course. But there also likely wouldn’t be a grocery store at all.

Enter Lafarge Canada, which has been helping “build better cities” for more than 60 years. To date it is the largest provider of diversified materials with 6,000 employees and 350 sites across the country. The company’s goal is to operate safely, while supplying high-quality materials that are produced and delivered with the environment in mind.

The company’s ready-mix fleet consists of more than 700 trucks and drivers, and 50 ready-mix plants in Quebec and Ontario. Drivers for the fleet deliver concrete from Lafarge plants to local construction sites – an important job considering twice as much concrete is used in construction than all other building materials combined. In fact, after water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth.

Drivers deliver concrete in a variation of recipes depending on the project. Some customers need colored concrete, others need fast-setting, or extra-strong characteristics.

According to Lafarge, its greatest strength is its people who work passionately to help construction on a wide variety of projects, from sidewalks, to hospitals, to schools, and homes.

Lafarge said its ready-mix drivers are professionals who have a strong commitment to safety, all while making on-time deliveries with tight schedules. Lafarge is known in particular to be concerned about cyclist and pedestrian safety. It has its own cycling safety strategy and Lafarge trucks also have underbars to keep cyclists or pedestrians from falling under the wheels of the truck, as well as in-cab cameras to assist drivers.

The company also has a rigid drug and alcohol policy that also speaks to its commitment to safety.

According to Lafarge, all employees are expected to report to work fit for duty, and remain fit during his or her shift. Not only is trucking a safety-sensitive industry, but so is construction. Lafarge says just as it is not safe to operate vehicles when under the influence of alcohol, the same goes for marijuana.

Grayham Thomson, general manager, southwest Ontario ready mix/director of Eastern Canada ready mix delivery, said even though the company prides itself on its professional and safe truck drivers, driver turnover is still challenging thanks to the aging driver population.

“Lafarge is lucky in the sense that many of our drivers have been with us for so many years,” Thomson said. “Some with over 50 years of service. We recognized many years ago the need to start looking at different avenues to attract younger drivers to the industry.”

Lafarge isn’t your average trucking company. Most of its drivers have a fantastic work/life balance because for the most part, they’re home every night after a full day’s work – something a lot of trucking companies can’t promise.

Lafarge drivers can also take pride in helping build the cities in which they live and work; they can help build skyscrapers and other landmarks. And Lafarge says its drivers enjoy the variety of work they can do, as well as how different, stimulating, and rewarding it is.

But even with the driver shortage looming, Lafarge said it “does not sway” from its extensive hiring protocols.

“(The hiring procedure) primarily consists of interviewing, good driver abstracts, CVOR checks, pre-employment road testing, reference checks, as well as other Ministry and company required items,” said Thomson. “Once a driver is hired, there is also extensive training on all government-required training such as hours-of-service, pre-trip inspections, defensive driving and more…this training is also required for our existing drivers and Lafarge ensures every driver is fully trained and is committed to the safety of everyone.”

Thomson added Lafarge is a good fit for men and women who want to return home every night, while being compensated generously.

“Our drivers are a family who care for one another and help keep each other safe,” Thomson added.

To help hire more drivers, Lafarge regularly advertises in trade publications, and more recently has partnered with a driver training school.

In the future, Lafarge says it is poised for growth as infrastructure is updated and the need for housing continues.

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