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Confessions of a small-town Driver Examiner: “GTA students are flooding our offices for tests”

The first time some new drivers drive in snow, they are driving a truck through Northern Ontario. Photo: Somewhere Out There,” Mike Murchison

An Ontario Truck driving examiner tells Road Warrior News the shortage of drivers has resulted in numerous shortcuts being taken by many of the new driving schools that have popped up in recent years.

“I don’t train; I do the testing. I see the results of the training,” says Pat Grey, who has been a Driver Examiner since 2009. (Note: the Examiner agreed to speak with RWN on the agreement we would use a pseudonym to protect their identify.)

“I live and test in a relatively small municipality. It used to be that we knew, or knew of, most of the businesses hiring Truck drivers. We knew who they were training, and the schools where they received their training.

“In the last several months, we have been flooded with students travelling from the Greater Toronto Area. I firmly believe they’re coming into offices like ours, three hours away from home, to avoid people noticing how many students the schools pumping out. They are pumping out way too many students for the hours in the month,” says Grey. “They all claim to be giving 116 hours per student. Unless they’re running 24 hours a day and have at least 12 instructors, there’s no way they can train this many students. One of the schools I know of has only one instructor.”

Grey notes that six brand new Truck training schools have popped up in the surrounding district in the past year.

“I am told this is how they are getting around minimum hours of training: they’ll get sleeper, pull the bed put and out and put in a bench seat. Then they pack in as many guys as they can: say they have one instructor and five guys in there. Each guy gets an hour of driving, but they count it as five hours of training for each one of them.”

The fact that many of the students and the owners of the brand-new Truck driving schools have immigrated to Canada from other nations adds to two other troubling trends Grey is seeing: drivers being certified as “A” drivers in such a short period of time that the very first time they see snow, they may be driving a transport truck in it; and falsified or fraudulent documents from other countries.

“The time frames are more than lengthy enough that a guy who is licensed to drive at home can who has a G license in April or May can finish training for an A license during the summer; and receive it by September or October. Some of them have never even driven a CAR in the snow. Their first experience of snow and icy roads is as a brand-new driver of a transport truck,” Grey points out, highlighting a reality described to RWN other industry professionals.

“The guys that are failing, they are not failing on the inspection portion. They are failing on the road – they drive the truck like they are driving a car. We actually see drivers crossing the centre line. They don’t understand how to button hook for a tight turn. They are failing on the road.”

With regard to documents and certificates that travel with students from their home countries, Grey says some suspicious things happen for which there is no obvious administrative explanation:

“I have had guys hand me a document which is not acceptable,” Grey notes. “When I tell them I cannot accept it, he goes outside, makes a phone call, and a while later a car pulls up and hands him another document. Who are these guys?” Grey asks. “When I have to return a document which is not acceptable, I can’t keep it or copy it so I cannot turn it over to my supervisor to check it out. We know the appearance of the correct documents, even the texture of the paper…but the first one is taken back and a new one handed over. How does that happen?”

Grey recalls that back in 2012 or 2013, MTO sent auditors out to check on both the schools and the Driver Examiners: “Every three months or so, I would look in my mirror and see someone in an MTO vehicle following me while I conducted the test. They checked on everyone.”

Now, Grey thinks, “They don’t have the man power to audit all the new schools, so they are counting on the Driver Examiner’s to ‘hold the line.’”

Grey has raised these issues with supervisors, MTO, the police, and local politicians and decided to speak to media because nothing appears to be happening to address them.

As part of Road Warrior News’ Driver Safety discussion in March, two other Driver Examiners provided information which supports Grey’s observations. RWN has since launched a tip line at which industry members can leave information.

When asked about road safety statistics in Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation consistently provides this response:

“The safety of all Ontarians who travel on our roads is of the utmost importance.  Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America, with Ontario being ranked within the top five North American jurisdictions with the lowest number of road fatalities per 10,000 licensed drivers for 22 years in a row. The Ministry of Transportation is committed to maintaining this strong record of road safety.

“On July 1, 2017, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce Entry-Level Training (ELT) for new commercial Class A truck drivers to improve road safety. Class A applicants are now required to complete ELT, through an approved training provider, prior to attempting their Class A road test. ELT includes a minimum of 103.5 hours of instruction and covers the entry-level knowledge and skills needed to safely operate a large truck on Ontario’s roads. The training explains actions required for changing weather conditions including, winter and night driving and changing road surfaces. 

“As part of the ministry’s commitment to improve road safety, we regularly review our policies and practices to see if they are in keeping with current research findings and best practices worldwide.”