A trucking and logistics company in Canada has taken an unusual — and expensive — step by giving a CA$10,000 bonus to drivers who already are or get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Montreal-based Fuel Transport is paying out the bonus — equivalent to $7,800 — in monthly installments over a year. To be eligible, drivers will need to get their first shot by Jan. 15, a week before the U.S. vaccination requirement for foreign essential workers takes effect.
“Once the mandate came down from the governments, we felt the necessity to push on the motivation aspect of things,” Fuel CEO Robert Piccioni told FreightWaves. “But we did it across the board. We did it with regional and local drivers as well. It’s not just drivers that are crossing borders.”
Piccioni said the vaccination rate among his drivers jumped from around 80 to 85% to nearly 100% since the company began rolling the bonuses out in November. Also helping the effort was Fuel’s staff nurse, who answered questions about the vaccines when the company announced the program.
Industry groups have raised alarms about the coming mandate — which also is being reciprocated by Canada — over fears that thousands of truckers will drop off cross-border work or leave the industry altogether. A recent survey by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada found that 67% of drivers were unvaccinated at the 35 fleets that responded.
While the coming mandate was a key motivator, the bonuses also serve as a way to reward drivers for their efforts during the pandemic, Piccioni said.
“It’s not totally entrenched in paying people to get vaccinated, he said. “It’s an appreciation program that we decided to roll out in association with this. We didn’t have to put that amount out there and potentially ask people to get vaccinated. We could have done that for a lot less. What we did was we acknowledged the work of these drivers and the work that they’ve done since 2020, since the beginning of the pandemic.”
The bonuses translate to about a 15% compensation bump for most drivers, he said. For Fuel, the cost is easier to stomach since the company’s primary business is as a 3PL, but he acknowledged that it will put pressure on margins on the trucking division, which specializes in food-grade bulk transport.
“We have no chance of making a profit if these guys aren’t running up and down the highways,” he said. “From a business perspective, there is no opportunity if there are no drivers. So we’ll worry about the economics of that at a later point in time.”
Despite offering the incentive and being a supporter of the vaccines, Piccioni disagrees with how the border mandates are being rolled out.
“I think they need to take a more progressive approach to leading these drivers to get vaccinated,” he said. “I think it’s too abrupt and too quick.”
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