The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is applauding an announcement from Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, calling for mandatory entry level training for Class A truck drivers in the province.
OTA was informed of the minister’s decision yesterday and in an article in today’s Toronto Star, the minister is quoted as saying: “We are going to go forward (with mandatory entry level training). We’re going to move as quickly as we can but we want to make sure that we get it right.” He added he believes “it should take place as quickly as possible, but in a manner that actually produces the end result that we all want, which is the safest roads in North America, which is part of my responsibility.”
The minister also raised the prospect of a national training standard at a recent meeting of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety in Montreal. Ontario is the first province to announce that it is prepared to make an entry level standard mandatory.
An in-depth investigation into truck driver training and licensing conducted by the Star published over the course of the last several days, highlighted concerns raised by OTA and others over the inconsistent level of training received by new Class A drivers, the proliferation of so-called “licensing mills”, and weaknesses in the provincial licence test for commercial truck drivers.
David Bradley, OTA’s president and CEO, applauded the Minister’s statements saying the commitment to mandatory entry level training is “a watershed moment for the trucking industry.”
While the Class A licence test needs to be updated and consistently applied, Bradley said “the key is mandatory entry level training – to an industry developed standard – that must be completed before a prospective driver can take the licence test.”
“The mere fact that someone holds a Class A licence does not ensure that person has the skills to be a safe and productive transport driver,” says Bradley. “Even an improved test will never fully determine a new driver’s skill level. Mandatory entry level training will at least assure trucking companies that when they hire a new driver, he or she has some basic level of skill that with additional training and experience can eventually lead to that person becoming a fully qualified professional driver.”
Bradley also contends that mandatory entry level training is an essential prerequisite for getting the tractor-trailer driving profession deemed to be a skilled occupation – something a Canadian Trucking Alliance blue ribbon task force of industry CEO’s and senior executives says is key to resolving the looming chronic shortage of qualified drivers.
The association has built a coalition of support for mandatory entry level training that includes all the major truck insurance companies, the association representing the province’s truck driver training industry, safety groups and the national association of shippers.
A working group of carriers is currently revising the National Occupational Standard which will form the foundation for a mandatory entry level training standard. The project is being managed by Trucking HR Canada in co-operation with CTA and is being supported by a grant from the federal department of Employment and Social Development Canada.
“There is a lot of work to do,” says Bradley. “But it starts with leadership and commitment; now that we have that, by working together we’ll get it done.”