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COVID-19: Hail repair hurdles

Calgary, Alberta — The pandemic has created some barriers to repairing vehicles and property damage, including a shortage of autobody parts and labour, due to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) recipients who are reluctant to return to work, panellists said Wednesday during Canada’s Catastrophe Conference (CATIQ Connect) February webinar. 

COVID-19 has made it more difficult than normal to get larger vehicle parts such as roofs, said Darilyn Dorosz, co-founder and general manager of Calagary-based PDR Hail Team Inc., which specializes in repairing vehicles damaged by hail storms. 

During a panel titled “The Impacts of the Supply Chain on the Insurance Industry,” Dorsoz told CatIQ Connect what it was like dealing with the aftermath of the record June 13, 2020, Alberta hail storm. 

In previous years, if there was a delay in getting a vehicle part, it was usually something like a shipping delay, suggested Dorosz. But this past June, he recalled how difficult it sometimes was to find replacement roofs. 

“This year, the parts were not even in stock. [The manufacturers] had not even made them yet. So we could not even get [anticipated delivery] dates. It was, ‘Well, we will let you know when we know,’ so it was more of an effort of managing expectations of the customer and letting them know we are doing everything we can but we are kind of at the mercy of the [auto] manufacturers.”

The June 13 hail storm cost the industry about 1.2 billion, making it Canada’s fourth most expensive insured catastrophe, according to a report by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc., last July. 

Some of the damage was so severe and extensive, some vehicles were total losses, said Rob De Pruis, IBC’s director of western consumer and industry relations. The PDR Hail Team was able to open a 40,000 sq. ft. vehicle damage appraisal facility within a week of the June 13 storm, Dorosz said during the CATIQ Feb. webinar.

“One of the challenges we experienced this year was a shortage of labour,” reported Dorosz. “People who would typically fill more entry-level positions in our company – such as administration, drivers, and detailers – were taking advantage of the [Canada Emergency Response Benefit]  and were reluctant to join the workforce. 

CERB, introduced in 2020 after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, gives financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who are directly affected by COVID-19. With CERB, the government pays up to $500 a week. It is intended for people who have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19, are eligible for employment insurance, or exhausted certain benefits between Dec. 29, 2019, and Oct. 3, 2020.

“Our body shop partners shared a similar experience [of a labour shortage] during COVID-19,” Dorosz said Thursday.

After the June hail storm, Dorosz tried to secure body shops to handle the large number of repairs needed. She found that several body shops in the Calgary area were closed down because of the pandemic and a downturn in business.

“It took weeks or months for some of the body shops to get staffed up to pre-pandemic levels to handle the volume from this intense hail storm,” said Dorosz.

One of Thursday’s CatIQ supply chain panellists was Ian McKay, assistant vice president of national accounts and insurance company solutions at Verisk.

McKay suggested he heard from some restoration contractors that in Ontario, some roofing tradespeople were being paid cash to encourage them to work.

“Labour was certainly a big issue from COVID-19,” said McKay. “Specifically, you may have had some people who were collecting the CERB payment, for example, and not wanting to take on some of this traditional labour.”

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