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A call for new carrier training

Although some might argue otherwise, it does take some individual effort to become a licensed Class 1/A driver in Canada. It has been argued (in this space) that the quality of training candidates receive varies widely, and notwithstanding the...


Although some might argue otherwise, it does take some individual effort to become a licensed Class 1/A driver in Canada. It has been argued (in this space) that the quality of training candidates receive varies widely, and notwithstanding the fact that there are many excellent training institutions, most recent graduates still require a good deal of on-the-job training and mentoring before they become proficient at their job.

This is accepted wisdom in the industry. In that respect it differs little from other industries that take in recent graduates and top-up their classroom accomplishments with what we like to call real-world experience.

The data confirms that drivers get better with experience. The ratio of collisions and infractions is inversely proportionate to the level of experience. That is the reason we have graduated licensing programs for new drivers that provide the opportunity for those newly licensed to gain experience before they gain full-licence status. But with all the importance that has been focused on the training and testing of new drivers, something else seems to have been missed.

Just about anyone can start up a trucking company. Apparently it is the ultimate no-experience-required profession.

It is a curious situation when you consider that at the other end of the spectrum, Ontario requires fully experienced drivers, including those with 30 or more years behind the wheel, to be tested once they reach age 65. (Just about everyone agrees that this requirement is out of step, but despite reasoned alternatives provided by the industry, the Ministry is still considering whether to abandon the policy in whole or in part).

So, despite the myriad regulations that govern trucking in Canada, it is possible for an individual, or group of individuals to start a trucking business while lacking any industry experience or basic knowledge of what their responsibilities would be. It is a situation that has the potential to put all road users at risk.

Our southern cousins have recognized the concern and have taken steps to ameliorate it. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has in place the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program that applies to all new US and Canadian carriers that want to conduct interstate operations. Training/education materials are made available, and the safety performance of these carriers is monitored closely during their early stages to ensure they have effective basic safety management controls in place. Within 18 months of start-up the new entrant is subject to an evaluation that must be passed prior to receiving full operating authority.

The FMCSA program provides a good starting point for helping new entrants manage the safety and regulatory elements of their trucking operations. The requirement to pass an evaluation within 18 months of start-up also lends a level of urgency or importance for the carrier to pay attention to the rules and operate safely. In this case the evaluation could be considered as both a carrot and a stick and we applaud FMCSA for this initiative.

Some Canadian jurisdictions also offer advice over the Internet for new and existing carriers.

For example, B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta have each made training/educational material available to assist both start-up and existing carriers with the intricacies of safety management and regulatory compliance.

The Alberta model is particularly well laid out. It is presented in 12 modules that take the reader all the way from start-up questions such as how to obtain operating permits and the requirements of IRP and IFTA, through topics such as the National Safety Code, record-keeping requirements, safety programs, maintenance, hours-of-service, dangerous goods, licensing and insurance, and safety ratings.

Each module explains its particular topic in a straightforward, easy to understand manner, which is perfect for the layman. The forward advises that the guide was developed to help existing and future drivers, managers and owners of commercial vehicles understand applicable legislation and safe operating procedures, and any reader should come away with that understanding.

Similarly, the Manitoba and B.C. guides are well presented, containing lots of good information for start-up carriers.

However, as with the FMCSA program, the Canadian efforts also lack what we might call the entry test; that is, some method of determining that a new carrier understands the complexities of trucking and the many levels of responsibility that are involved.

It may not be quite enough that the training/educational materials are made available if there is no confirmation that an applicant understands the material, or indeed has even looked at it. Some type of confirmation, whether by a test or otherwise would, in our view, make the programs more effective. Given that the data confirms a high level of collisions and incidents with new carriers in their first year of operation, some jurisdictions are now considering the question of whether new applicants should be required to pass a test of their safety and regulatory knowledge before they receive operating privileges. That is a concept we could support.

The same concept could also be considered for existing carriers whose operating records might indicate a need for a refresher on the basics.


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