EDMONTON, Alta. – Alberta is moving towards accepting a new training standard for truck drivers which would make it the first jurisdiction in Canada to train and certify truckers as professionals.
The announcement comes just weeks after a Calgary driving school was charged with allegedly issuing bogus Class 1 licences to unqualified drivers.
“There is a recognition on these trucks that it’s not just simply changing gears and looking in the rear view mirror anymore,” Transportation Minister Lyle Oberg told the Canadian Press, adding he plans to seek approval from cabinet within a month. It’s expected a 37-week pilot program – administered by Red Deer College – could be underway by fall.
“The whole component of taking (nearly) a year of training will increase the safety almost exponentially,” Oberg said. “You can’t just jump in a truck, take a two-hour course and be a truck driver. When you consider these people are driving these massive objects down the highway at 100 kilometres an hour, it’s a huge projectile. They’ve got to be trained.”
The new standard will include elements of the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council’s (CTHRC) Earning Your Wheels program.
“What the Alberta program has added to our program at the front end is an introduction to driving and to the industry with some assessments, particularly in the area of essential skills and some upgrading of those skills to ensure people are able to comprehend and learn the technical side of the training,” said CTHRC executive director Linda Gauthier.
Another key difference is the Alberta program requires a longer work placement period – consisting of a 17-week paid co-op job with a carrier.
Participating carriers will provide a driver coach/mentor to students, providing them with on-the-job training.
While Martin Dupuis of Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation told Truck West the launch of this program is entirely unrelated to the Delta Driving School bust, there’s plenty of speculation that the arrests helped bring the project to the front burner.
“I think it may have been expedited,” admitted Gauthier.
“This has been in the works for a number of years, but I think that event has brought to light how urgent the problem is and how we have to move ahead with something the government and industry has confidence in.”
Currently, the only other province that has adopted national training standards is New Brunswick, but even that region has yet to make truck driving a certifiable trade.
By adopting the proposed program, Alberta will be the first region to do so and other provinces will be watching closely to see how it plays out.
“I think the standard will come up and we’ll drag everybody upwards with us,” said Cliff Soper, executive director of the Transportation Training & Development Association (TT&DA).
TT&DA has been working towards getting truck driving recognized as a professional trade for years.
Its initial goal was to develop an apprenticeship program for truck drivers, but the province rejected the idea as it didn’t fit the traditional apprenticeship model.
By establishing truck driving as a certified trade, the industry hopes to attract more young people to the industry.
It’s expected insurance companies will be more willing to insure young drivers who have completed the course and that could open new opportunities to prospective drivers who are currently unable to get insured because they are under 25 years old.
Still, there’s speculation as to how many new drivers will be willing to invest extra time and money in the new course when a cheaper and quicker alternative still exists.
This is because the program will be strictly voluntary at first and training schools will still be able to offer less detailed driver training courses.
“The objective here is not to get you a Class 1 licence, it’s to get you a certificate to recognize you as a certified professional driver,” said Gauthier, adding government funding will hopefully cover a large part of the extra cost.
“Where else can you go to school for under a year and get a good job?”
About 100 students are expected to take part in the pilot project, but Oberg said the program could grow to accommodate up to 600.