TORONTO, Ont. – More than eight months after the pandemic struck, the trucking industry is still focused on keeping employees safe, human resource managers said Thursday.
They also told the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Bridging Border Barriers virtual conference that the buzz about Covid-19 vaccines has raised hopes of better days.
“The news of the vaccine on the horizon seems to have been a bit uplifting,” said Rosana Preston, director of human resources and administration at Rosedale Group.
“Instead of hearing the negative about the virus, now you are kind of hearing a buzz about the vaccine,” the HR Leader of the Year told a panel discussion.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said this week that a final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of its vaccine found it to be 95% effective. Meanwhile, U.S. biotechnology company Moderna has said its vaccine is 94.5% effective.
Canada is expected to get millions of doses of both vaccines as soon as they become available.
Access to vaccine
The panelists were asked whether trucking industry employees should be a priority for the vaccine as frontline workers.
Geoff Topping, vice-president of people and culture at Challenger Motor Freight, said he was hopeful that would be the case.
“To be honest, we are an essential service. People are traveling across the borders into various regions and I am hoping we are right in line,” Topping said.
“Of course, health care professionals need to be first, and I am hoping our industry is considered near the front of the line.”
Adam Lang, chief risk officer at Halvor Lines, a carrier based in Superior, Wis., agreed.
“We are the ones bringing the goods. We are the ones bringing the materials, and I think it’s important as a whole,” he said.
“I feel that with our industry organizations we can effectively lobby the government to make transportation and trucking, one of the top priorities in receiving the vaccine for our central workers.”
Moderating the webinar, Dave Dietrich, vice-president of human resources at the Erb Group of Companies, said HR priorities had changed with the onset of Covid-19.
“Now the hot topics in HR are things like managing a remote workforce, adaptability, technology, the employee experience, diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellness, employee engagement and the evolving role and importance of our leaders.”
All three panelists said they had faced problems at the beginning in implementing a work from home regime.
Topping said keeping everybody communicated, and keeping the lines of communication open both ways are really important.
He said Challenger will publish its Covid Communication No.61 or 62 this week. The company’s crisis management committee is still meeting twice a month.
“The virus forced us to be mindful of things that may or may never have been on our radar.”– Rosana Preston, director of human resources and administration, Rosedale Group.
Preston said the pandemic impacted Rosedale in so many ways, but there was a positive outcome too.
“The virus forced us to be mindful of things that may or may never have been on our radar,” she said.
“By eliminating the obvious and adjusting to the new norms, we reduced the impact on the organization, and at the same time provided a safer workplace for employees.”
Covid had an effect on driver recruitment at its peak, but the situation has since stabilized, the HR managers said.
What has changed, though, is the way drivers and other employees are hired.
“Everybody was a little unsure how things were going to go. So, it (hiring) was put on hold for a while,” said Topping.
Now Challenger has resumed hiring, but most of the recruitment is done virtually, he said. Virtual recruitment had no impact on the quality of employees hired, Topping added.
At the U.S. fleet Halvor, many aspects of driver training are also completed virtually with the help of CarriersEdge, the online training provider based in Markham, Ont.
“The vast majority of our training is done and documented online with the excellent provider that we got involved with in,” Lang said.
A survey was also conducted among the 600 webinar participants to gauge the Top 5 Covid-related HR issues.
They said the following issues were the most important:
- Recruitment and retention;
- Orientation and onboarding;
- Mental health;
- Working from home; and
- Supporting management
Then moderator Dietrich asked the panelists what would they be talking about a year from now.
Preston said the incoming legislation on workplace harassment would be a major topic of discussion.
Bill C-65, otherwise known as Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations, comes into force Jan. 1.
Preston also thinks the issue of mental health would also dominate discussions next year.
Topping added the search for talent will remain on the agenda.
“And, it is all of our responsibility to help us recruit, train and retain people,” he said.
“We all need to make sure that our businesses have the people they need in order to succeed. So, I would think that will still be on our agenda.”
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