Monday, February 26, 2024
The first time some new drivers drive in snow, they are driving a truck through Northern Ontario. Photo: "Somewhere Out There," Mike Murchison

Ontario’s MELT curriculum for new truckers does not use the word “winter” anywhere, even once

Photo: “Somewhere out there” by Mike Murchison

The word “winter” is never used in Ontario’s Mandatory Entry Level Training curriculum for transport truck drivers.

The same automated search of the document finds that the word “snow” is used twice, in relation to the driver’s responsibility to deal with snow build up on the vehicle, not snow on the road.

Ontario rolled out its Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for transport truck drivers in 2017.

“While ‘driving conditions’ are part of the MELT curriculum, ‘winter driving’ specifically is not,” notes Lesley de Repentigny, CEO of KnowledgeSurge Institute and DriveWise Training. The fact that a new truck driver can be licensed to drive in Southern Ontario and then hired to drive through Northern Ontario virtually immediately may be a contributing factor to the number of accidents on Highway 11/17, which is now the focus of a petition to make the road safer.

Lesley de Repentigny, CEO of KnowledgeSurge/DriveWise

“Especially over the last few years, there’s a large component of people that are finishing their training in Southern Ontario. Getting to the North has not been part of their training, ever. It’s not even a thing that they would contemplate, until they get paid to do so.”

De Repentigny believes that no matter what combination of actions is recommended to help solve the problem, more and better training will always be a significant part of the solution: “It will be a mixture of things that solve the problem, and training to be able to adjust for winter driving conditions is a critical component.”

De Repentigny points to the only two places snow is mentioned in the MELT curriculum: “Section 6: Documents, Paperwork & Regulatory Requirements” and “Section 6.4.9 Explains the driver’s responsibility to deal with a build‐up of snow or ice on their vehicle(s).”

“Neither of these sections co-relate to real-time driving behavior, cognitive ability or risk recognition,” notes de Repentigny, who has been designing and delivering training since 2004.

Real-time elements could be incorporated without inducing massive changes to a solid curricula standard, she says, citing examples:

“Section 2, ‘Vehicle Components & Systems’ contains these three items as mandatory requirements:

  • 2.1.7 Describes how steering control is lost when tires skid during heavy brake use or when braking with poor traction.
  • 2.1.8 Describes the way that Anti‐lock Brake Systems (ABS) keep wheels from locking, but may not shorten vehicle stopping distance.
  • 2.1.9 Describes how stability control systems operate and affect vehicle operation

“These sections could be expanded to include specific performance degradation in winter weather,” Repentigny says.

“Ideally, a subsection to Section 3, ‘Basic Driving Techniques’ or Section 10, ‘Handling Emergencies’ could contain a dedicated module on driving in Adverse weather that encompasses all Adverse weather conditions, or Winter Driving in particular.”

In summary, De Repentigny says, “I think the solution will encompass multiple elements, but that training is one of the key components. MELT Standards could be easily adapted to include very Ontario specific risks in more depth by including Adverse weather driving as Mandatory Requirements.”

 “Especially over the last few years, there's a large component of people  
that are finishing their training in Southern Ontario.  
Getting to the North has not been part of their training, ever.  
It's not even a thing that they would contemplate, until they get paid to do so." 
--Lesley de Repentigny

“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 (sic) and night driving and changing road surfaces,” Lee Alderson, Senior Issues Advisor at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation told Road Warrior News in an email.

“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.”