Truck drivers at Fuel Transport have a new reason to roll up their sleeves prior to Jan. 15, in the form of a $10,000 bonus for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Referred to as the Covid-19 Driver Appreciation Program – and also offered as thanks for keeping trucks on the move during the pandemic – the funds will be paid in 12 monthly installments. Only those who receive two doses of the vaccine will receive the full payout. Fully vaccinated recruits who join the fleet before Jan. 15 will also be eligible.
The Jan. 15 deadline aligns with a federal vaccine mandate that applies to border-crossing truck drivers. But the bonus will even apply to the fleet’s regional drivers.
“These drivers are on the front line of our work. They’re the grassroots of what we do on a daily basis,” said Rob Piccioni, founder and CEO of Montreal-headquartered Fuel Transport, which employs about 100 truck drivers. “When Covid hit, we weren’t in a position to hand out bonuses and appreciation.”
About 85% of the truck drivers were already vaccinated before the program was announced, and Fuel’s non-asset third-party-logistics and brokerage business was ready to pick up any slack if needed. But nobody pushed back against the plan.
It’s also the first time the fleet has paid a recruiting or retention bonus of any kind.
“We also need these drivers to be safe and protect the people they’re interacting with as well.”– Rob Piccioni
“We kind of felt for these drivers as well that weren’t vaccinated and running into the U.S. all the time,” Piccioni said, referring to potential exposure to Covid-19. “You were a bit more exposed than, potentially, the average person.”
“We need to ensure the integrity of our workplace,” he added. “We also need these drivers to be safe and protect the people they’re interacting with as well.”
The fleet, which already has a nurse on staff to support ongoing wellness initiatives, even hosted a two-hour information session with healthcare professionals to field questions about Covid-19, vaccines and more, to help relieve any anxiety.
Earlier in the pandemic, Fuel Transport had actually banned truck drivers from facilities to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. But fleet managers also heard from drivers who complained they were being treated like a virus themselves. It was a learning process.
Supply chain worries
While he clearly supports vaccines, Piccioni is still raising concerns that border-related vaccine mandates are being implemented too quickly.
“We do have supply chain issues in North America, and right now even taking 10% of the drivers out of the flow of goods between Canada and the U.S. is going to cause a tremendous ripple effect,” he said.
“I am pushing and lobbying for the respective bodies on both sides of the border to potentially push this out.”
Piccioni believes governments should first look at additional ways to encourage more drivers to be vaccinated.
“They need to be walked through this. They can’t just be pushed through a small door,” he said. “Create something around promoting the vaccine for these ladies and gentlemen that have been running back and forth across North America without real guidance.
“They’re doing the necessary work we need.”
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