Truck driver training was in the spotlight in a press conference held March 22nd to call for improved highway safety in Northern Ontario. Politicians and Trucking professionals believe that at least some, if not all, of the tragic accidents which took place over the March 17th weekend could have been avoided.
“This year, two snow plow operators have been killed due to head on collisions with a truck. We are frustrated with the reputation the trucking industry has been getting in recent years because of the rise in serious and sometimes fatal collisions that involve trucks,” McDougall said, referring to the death of a snow plow operator on Highway 17 east of Dryden on March 17th.
“The quality of training new drivers are receiving is insufficient considering the job they will be expected to do once they have acquired their commercial drivers license. Many carriers do not provide additional training to new employees before sending them over the road, and if they do, it is often insufficient to ensure the driver is properly prepared to safely do the job.
“Many student drivers are taught enough to pass the road test in order to acquire their license, instead of enough to send them on the right path to become a safe and professional commercial truck driver.”
NDP MPP Lise Vaugeois quoted the Auditor General’s report which noted that carriers which did their own testing had extremely high driver pass rates:
“Last year, Ontario’s Auditor General reported on carriers which provide their own training. The AG found that carriers between 2014/15 and 2018/19 had a pass rate of 95 per cent compared with just 69 per cent at drive test centers. We know that 25 per cent of the 106 carriers testing their own drivers under the program ranked among the worst 1 per cent of all carriers for all at- fault collision performance. It’s a lot of words. But what it means is that there are driving schools that are not adequately preparing drivers for the for the risks and the responsibilities of driving on our highways.”
The Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) told Road Warrior News in an email that it is very concerned with the amount of collisions and injuries occurring on roads in Ontario, and that this is especially relevant for the highways in Northern Ontario.
“The comments of the NDP member of Thunder Bay – Superior North highlight the degree of preparedness of new drivers coming into driving on our roads from two differing sources,” says TTSAO President Philip Fletcher.
“When a new driver is trained, licensed and hired by a carrier with a Driver Certification Program certificate, there is a certain amount of focussed training to get the driver in the seat and on the road,” Fletcher notes.
“This is opposed to a new driver from a TTSAO school graduating through a government curriculum, which is more general and non-specific, but controlled by the amount of hours, and is tested by a neutral third party.”
Fletcher notes that when Ontario brought in the Minimum Entry Level Curriculum (MELT) standard in 2017, “at 103.5 hours, it created a floor for the minimum training standard.
“Some TTSAO schools offer a 103.5 hour course for competitive reasons. However, we also have a 200 hour program, which is our standard bearer.”
Even the graduates of a TTSAO program can benefit from a period of onboarding done by every carrier that properly puts a new driver in a mentorship position, overseen by a senior driver for a period of three to six weeks, Fletcher says: “This gives up to another 300 hours of training with oversight for corrections, knowledge, compliance and culture of the company.”
Another significant element of Truck driver training which industry members feel does not receive sufficient attention or resources is the assessment and evaluation of trainers, which is the responsibility of Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges. Road Warrior News contacted the Ministry for comment and any update on these programs on March 22nd, and will update this article with new information when it is received.