MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec’s Transport Ministry refused to give the province’s trucking industry a reprieve in registration payments that were due April 1, despite a call for help in the fight against Covid-19.
“We asked for some oxygen to help keep our fleets complete. Certainly there is a reaction of not understanding our industry,” said Marc Cadieux, CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association. “We are called heroes, but we are sent the message that the transportation of food and health items is not of significant importance compared to T and F plates.”
Taxis and F-plated commercial vehicles — such as minivans, farm equipment, and pickup trucks — had been granted a delay.
Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Florence Plourde said in an email that the department believes other sectors of the transportation industry are being hit harder.
“Although the transportation of essential goods is currently a priority, several other sectors of the economy continue to use trucking, particularly for the delivery of sales that are made online. We wanted to respond to the most pressing issues, those of the taxi industry as well as commercial vehicles,” Plourde said.
Quebec is “aware of the challenges faced by the industry” and remains “in daily communication with its representatives,” she added.
In the wake of the decision, Express Mondor has decided to park more than half of its fleet – 55 out of 100 tractor units.
The Lanoraie fleet mainly works in the construction sector and exports to the U.S. with flatbed trailers.
“I have kept 45 trucks plated. I take the chance that business will resume on April 13 as promised, otherwise I would have done that for nothing, and I will have to put away other trucks on April 30 if business does not start again,” said fleet president Éric Mondor.
Non-essential business activity has been paused by the Quebec government until at least April 13.
It’s not just Mondor’s fleet that has shrunk. The garage, too. Where the company had 25 mechanics before the crisis, it now has only three.
It is all a matter of cash flow. Manufacturing companies have locked their doors, significantly reducing the volumes to be transported. And it is impossible to say how long before the receivables are paid. “Even if I send invoices now, how long will it take to be paid? Businesses are closed,” he says. “When you eat out or refuel, you pay right away. We do not say that we will pay in 60, 90 or 120 days. But we have to support those types of delays.”
Mondor recognizes that he could offer his services to companies looking for capacity, such as food distributors, but it would be “like asking a hockey player to go play soccer. They have their specialty, and we have ours.”
Storing half of its fleet will give him access to $ 15,000 in cashflow per month. By removing the insurance on these same trucks, he gets another $ 35,000 a month. This money will help pay the drivers, fuel and other expenses.
“The insurance company is really sharp with us. The banks too, they are really supportive,” he said.
“[Premier François] Legault does an excellent job. He said that we are heroes, but he did not get the message down to the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) apparently,” Mondor said. “We just asked for a reprieve and didn’t get it, so we take it ourselves by putting away trucks. But that also means, unfortunately, laying off drivers.”
Nevertheless, the morale of the troops remains good and the employees are understanding. “I took off my tie and put on my Kodiaks. I talk a lot to my drivers. They don’t give up,” Mondor says.
But he still wonders why the SAAQ gave taxis a break and not the trucking industry.
“To me it’s a double standard.”
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