Ontario is leading the way by being the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce mandatory entry level training for tractor-trailer drivers
The Ontario Trucking Association is hailing recent announcement from provincial transportation minister Stephen Del Duca that all new drivers wishing to take the tractor-trailer (Class A) road test in Ontario will first be required to successfully complete a mandatory entry level training course through an approved training provider.
The rule will take effect July 1, 2017. It makes good on a commitment made by Del Duca shortly after becoming Minister of Transportation in 2014 and three years after OTA first proposed the measure to the provincial government.
"By being the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce mandatory entry level training for tractor-trailer drivers, Ontario is leading the way in further improving highway safety and helping the industry ensure it has an adequate supply of consistently trained, quality new drivers in the future," says OTA chief executive officer David Bradley, who stood with the minister at his recent announcement at the MTO DriveTest Centre in Brampton.
"This is a game-changer," he added. "The days of basically being able to walk in off the street and take the tractor-trailer test with no training whatsoever are over."
There are a number of reasons why OTA wanted to see mandatory entry level training introduced, Bradley said.
"For a long time, carriers have been concerned over the lack of consistency in the basic level of driving competency exhibited by recently licensed Class A drivers," he noted. "There are good schools producing good candidates, but at the other end of the spectrum there are the license mills which are providing just enough instruction to pass the test."
"Simply getting the Class A licence has not been a sufficient indicator that a person has the basic skills that a carrier can then mold into a professional truck driver," he said.
The Class A test will also be undergoing some changes to bring it more in line with the new standard.
While it might appear counter-intuitive to be raising the bar on driver training and licensing at a time when the industry is facing a long-term, chronic driver shortage, Bradley says it will in fact help the industry to attract more, better qualified people to the occupation.
"Everyone, from the CTA Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage, to the Conference Board of Canada, to just about everyone else in the industry, has identified the fact that tractor-trailer driving is erroneously classified as a low-skill occupation, which acts as a barrier to attracting people to the job," he said. "Mandatory entry level training is an essential step in changing that perception and the classification."
Details of the new minimum training standard will be released next week. However, Bradley says the standard reflects the entry level portion of the National Occupational Standard developed by Truck HR Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance and was the subject of extensive consultation with industry stakeholders.
"We have pretty good idea of what the standard will look like," he said. "And, given the level of input from industry – including carriers, drivers, insurance companies, training schools and safety organizations – we are in strong support."
It is expected the new standard will require a minimum of 103.5 hours of training (115.5 hours if the MTO air brake course is included). It will apply to private career colleges, community colleges and regulated authorities under the MTO Driver Certification Program.
Bradley says the new standard is much more observable and measurable compared to previous standards. "This will bring consistency to the standards used by the various training providers and will force the licensing mills to either bring their training up-to-standard or exit the industry."
There are some issues still to be worked out over the next year such as student funding and instructor qualifications.
"However, I see no reason why, with the kind of cooperation we have had so far, that these issues won't be resolved," said Bradley.
Work is also underway with the Ontario College of Trades to bring the Ontario apprenticeship program in line with the new standards.