Trucking gears up for return of Quebec residential construction

Steve Bouchard

MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec restarted selected residential construction activities this week, following a shutdown that lasted almost a month because of Covid-19. Residential construction businesses are back on the job to complete units scheduled to be available by July 31 at the latest.

Even during that shutdown, Patrick Morin Inc. was able to keep all of its drivers on the job thanks to the booming online sales of hardware supplies.

The shifting business activities required some different strategies, however. The fleet had to lease Econoline vans that could be driven by Class 5 drivers, freeing personnel who hold Class 3 licences to deliver larger orders and bigger materials. There were new protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus during home deliveries, too.

Those protocols will now be extended to construction sites.

Michel St-Jean of Patrick Morin believes there are enough building supplies at the ready to meet an anticipated surge in demand.

“The trucks are disinfected before and after the shifts. There are disinfectant gel and gloves in the trucks,” says general manager Michel St-Jean. “The deliverers respect the distance of two meters, they ask the customer for his name and proof of identity, but do not have the invoice signed. The same process will apply on construction sites.”

And the teams keep an eye on communications from groups like the Quebec Construction Association and APCHQ, which represents residential construction and renovation businesses.

He believes enough building supplies are available to meet the anticipated 30% surge in demand for construction materials, as the sites reopen.

“We took advantage of the shutdown to build up our inventories,” he says, referring to a Patrick Morin distribution center in Saint-Paul-de-Joliette. “The timing was ideal because our partners who deliver to us by truck had capacity, and we know that, currently, road traffic is favorable for truckers and transportation is done faster. We took the opportunity to stock up.”

Groupe BMR added 14 trucks to its operation this week following the month-long reduction in construction activity, and has 26 trucks ready to go.

Martin Lecomte says Groupe BMR has 26 trucks ready to roll — an increase of 14 units this week thanks to the restart of construction activities.

“We anticipate that this number will increase even more over the next few days, while construction site activities will gradually resume their usual rhythm,” said Martin Lecomte, vice-president – retail.

“The partial takeover of residential construction sites is excellent news for Groupe BMR as it allows us to recall a good number of drivers and relaunch operations on the contractors side. That said, we will spare no effort to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers by providing a service that meets the health standards issued by Quebec.”

New procedures involve wearing gloves and goggles, and maintaining a two-meter distance. If two employees are in the same truck, they are required to wear masks.

There’s also a new disinfection station in each truck, giving drivers what they need to wash their hands and disinfect equipment before and after each delivery.

“Definitely, the main difference with pre-Covid-19 and now are the sanitary measures,” says Lecomte, who ensures the related supplies are available.

“In all transparency, there are few impacts on our side when it comes to procurement. We have been identified as an essential business. We have never stopped sourcing, and our operational suppliers have been able to meet demand. In any case, we always have stocks that are ordered in anticipation of several months. So we haven’t had a problem with that.”

The reopening of residential construction in the province also means a partial restart of the concrete industry, which has essentially been stopped since March 24.

“If we rely on statistics from Ontario — a province where residential construction has not been stopped — we should expect an increase of 30% to 60% in activities depending on the region,” said Luc Bédard, president of the Béton Québec association.

Depending on the region and time of year, residential construction can represent up to 60% of the Quebec concrete industry’s volume.

“It is a fairly sensitive sector,” said Bédard. “In Montérégie, Estrie and Québec, people had already started digging to make their foundations. It will resume quickly.”

Steve Bouchard

Steve Bouchard started writing about trucks over 20 years ago, making him by far the most experienced trucking journalist in Quebec. Steve is the editor of Quebec’s leading French-language trucking magazine, Transport Routier, published by Newcom Média Québec since its creation in 2000. He is also editor of the associated website transportroutier.ca, and a contributor to Today’s Trucking and Trucknews.com.

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