Entry level driver training, will they get it right, I believe the odds at this point are even, this an issue that I have personally been knee deep in for a number of years as past Chairman and current BOD member of the PTDI (Professional Truck Drivers Institute), and current Co-Chair of the School Committee of the Truckload Carriers Association.
ELDT has been in discussion and in various stages of review and development by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) for over 20 years, one of the reasons this has dragged out so long is this is a watershed move for a country. Ontario has just recently entered the fray of course with the recent announcement of mandated ELDT. Currently there are roughly 50% of the new A/Z or CDL license holders in North America, who attend no formal training whatsoever. So to mandate a minimum training standard is a big deal and there are some big, powerful companies and associations who are totally convinced that their position on this issue is the right one to turn into legislation and the law of the land. So what are the options that are available lets review them.
First is a minimum hourly based certified course similar to what PTDI has had in the marketplace for decades. This system is predicated on mandated minimum hours of training the least of which is 144. A student must spend mandated minimum hours mastering the elements necessary to be proficient in each element some of which are basic control, vehicle inspection, nighttime driving, backing up, HOS and dozens of others. Each element of the training has detailed teaching materials that the student must master. The course is subject to audit by PTDI who is an independent body, and the course must be recertified on a regular basis to ensure compliance to the minimum standard; this includes ongoing instructor education and accreditation and teacher student ratios while performing in cab training and school recording keeping assuring compliance to standards. http://www.ptdi.org/standards/
Pros, this system ensures a minimum exposure to all elements necessary to be proficient in this trade also the 3rd party auditing and accreditation ensures compliance to minimum standards. Compliance to paper trail and quality of process and equipment would eliminate many existing subpar schools in the industry, puppy mills would be Gone!
Cons, this process is usually longer than most training courses sold in NA and as such is usually more expensive because of that. Some would say, pay peanuts and you get monkeys.
Second is a competency based training system that is predicated on the individual’s capability to master a given skill and the move on to the next at a pace that is individual to the particular student. The process would also require an individual to demonstrate the required knowledge and skills prior to sitting for the CDL skills exam rather than simply requiring an individual to complete a specific number of hours where he or she may or may not learn what is required. A curriculum would be developed that would be consistent throughout North America; governess/compliance would be the role of the FMCSA or the MOT (Ministry of Transportation). This curriculum may mirror PTDI’s curriculum but would eliminate mandated minimum hours and the accreditation process.
Pros, this system allows an individual who has a higher aptitude around heavy equipment to move through the training much quicker than someone who might be less comfortable around similar equipment. This system would likely be less costly and allow many individuals to enter the workforce at an earlier timeframe.
Cons, the determination of competency has a high level of individual judgement involved and the level of competency may vary greatly as likely the testing will still be left to a government official with limited time to test the individual. This system is not too dissimilar to what currently exist in the marketplace. Which is of course not acceptable or this process would not be happening and would likely not eliminate the puppy mills that currently exist.
Maybe the answer is a hybrid of these two options, maybe when were talking lives on the nations highway the decision is not made by consensus when all the input is gathered, but rather by common sense and yielding to caution by adopting a minimum mandate hours curriculum type model or PTDI. When competency is allowed to be measured by privately owned training schools corners will be cut by some, have no doubt, this is fact.
I want to preference this by invoking the familiar 80/20 rule because I believe that 80% of the schools that currently use a competency based curriculum do it right and with conscience. The scary as hell 20% do it for nothing but the money and their interpretation of their students being competent starts with did the check cash or did the get funded, by our tax dollars by the way, if so, their already halfway to getting their licence and the sooner the better so we can get on with the next pay check. These courses last lest than a week, they are commonly known as puppy mills and no matter what system is adopted in Ontario or the US they must be eliminated and all the holes plugged that will ensure they never return if this great industry is ever to realize it’s full potential.
We are at a crossroads in my opinion; a watershed moment in our history as truckers, this single piece of legislation has the power to change the landscape forever. ELDT has the power to elevate the profession of driving a tractor-trailer from something I can do until I get a real job into something to aspire to with detailed training required. In Ontario add the apprenticeship program that is in place and this thing is really starting to look more like a skilled trade than a job that just anyone can attain.
So will they get it right, lets hope so, this great industry certainly deserves more than we have now, which isn’t much. Some smart people are at the table, it’s my sincere hope that they put aside partisan positions and do the right thing for all of our sakes.
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight