Ontario plan for brake endorsement renewals is sound

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Learning is a lifelong process, and that’s especially true in the trucking industry. Long after licences and certificates are secured, truck drivers can still benefit from reminders about everything from safety practices to shifting regulatory requirements.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) wants to build on that very idea by introducing a new online training option for drivers who are renewing air brake endorsements – a step needed to maintain the all-important “Z” on a licence.

Rather than requiring previously endorsed drivers to check boxes on a test handed out at a Drive Test Centre, the proposal would introduce approved online training modules that can be completed remotely to earn a certificate. Driver Certification Programs would be the first to receive the material, while the broader community would see the program after the Ministry of Transportation has the chance to tweak the prog­­­ram.

online learning
(Illustration: istock)

It would all come at an affordable $16 per driver, matching the price that licensed drivers pay for today’s approach. And it’s specifically for those who have already completed their initial training and testing to secure the endorsement in the first place.

Any time we find a way to deliver modernized, trustworthy, and consistent training material, truck drivers benefit. Especially when such content can be consumed on the road and at their convenience.

Concerns about delivery

Not everyone agrees with the process, though. W­­­­hile the approach has been endorsed by the Ontario Trucking Association, the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) argues that the new approach will sacrifice on-road safety.

PMTC’s central concern is that drivers will game the new system and have other people complete their courses at renewal time. It’s a position that fails to recognize the value of remote proctoring practices applied by colleges and universities. A wide array of professionals also maintain various designations by accumulating continuing education credits in a similar manner.

So, too, does the position minimize the benefits that fleets realize by using other online training and re-training programs to support various skills.

And while PMTC is correct to raise concerns about the prevalence of brake-related violations, which accounted for 48.4% of out-of-service numbers during the 2022 Roadcheck inspection blitz, such challenges exist despite today’s approach to renewals.

Address the real shortcomings

The underlying problems with the province’s brake endorsement regime have less to do with redundant bureaucratic renewal exercises than they do with the quality and quantity of initial training.

If we truly want to address shortcomings in brake-related knowledge, we will introduce better oversight for the schools that deliver the core training to entry-level drivers — and ensure that would-be truckers receive hands-on experience with brake systems before hitting the road. Today’s training may be mandatory, but it often falls short of being meaningful.

So, too, should we commit to continually refining the training and refresher material that is available. Delivering approved course material is a step in the right direction in the latter regard.

Most of all, fleets can play their part by giving drivers the paid time to complete proper brake inspections in the first place. Maybe that’s where we should focus the most attention of all.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • dumbest idea yet .
    knowledge is paramount yes but this does nothing to answer the reason there are accidents .
    recognizing the brakes are out of adjustment is one thing fixing it is another. since the brakes are self adjusting any out of adjustment brake technically are out of service how many companies will enforce or create a system where a trailer or truck will be inspected to thar degree preloading
    you know if its loaded they arnt going to reload it most dont have that type of facility .
    it takes experience from the driver to know what to look for and how it feels to know one or more brake is out of adjustment or not working properly and it needs to be expressed to allow them to make that call not the company to say this vehicle is unsafe without being forced to take it out on the road or talked into it .
    you can test all you want . that will not improve road saftey.

  • People can sit at a computer with another individual who can fill in the blanks and that takes the unqualified person and propels them forward.Happens all the time.Why do you think we have so many unqualified drivers on the road already?The government has no grasp of reality on this.We have a real problem on the roads and there is no reversing it.The sad part is that the good drivers are going to have to jump through more hoops to be able to operate in an increasingly undesirable environment.

  • Only Truck News aka The OTA Gazette would support something so dumb. The industry needs tougher testing so that drivers actually understand how their airbrake system works. This will only assist to the ongoing downward spiral of the driver pool!

  • Let’s say you wake up at 5.30am, open the hood check fluids and belts and tires ect. Your parked in a dirty pull out. Do you actually go under the low Cascadia with farings and start pulling brakes and measuring the stroke? No i don’t think so. And every day yet. If one is out of adjustment do you call a service man miles or hours away? No. The hypocrisy of it all against truckers is ridiculous. Ya go ahead and find people for that job. And get finned a weekly pay amount. Huge penalties. Good luck suckers.