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Building Better Drivers

TORONTO, Ont. - The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and stakeholders from the bus and truck industries are developing a set of recommendations to raise the skill levels and qualifications required of...

TORONTO, Ont. – The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and stakeholders from the bus and truck industries are developing a set of recommendations to raise the skill levels and qualifications required of commercial drivers in Ontario. The Commercial Driver Improvement Plan (CDIP) is a three-pronged approach, explains Leo Tasca, team leader for special projects, road safety office for the MTO.

“The first area we’re looking at is a new commercial driver’s licence road test, the second is stricter licence entry criteria and learner’s permits and the third is an endorsement program,” says Tasca.

Three working groups within the steering committee, made up of key industry representatives and MTO management, are working on each segment respectively.

Two groups have completed their initial development of policies and implementation options and their final reports were endorsed by the overall steering committee. The group working on the licence endorsement program was still finalizing its work as Truck News went to print. Recommendations so far correspond with other areas of driver licensing policy, like the graduated licensing system brought into place for novice drivers and the general progress made in commercial vehicle safety, says Tasca. “I don’t think this has necessarily been spurred by a problem, but instead, is prompted by a desire to raise the bar and improve performance and make things even safer,” he says.

Conceived in 2001, the CDIP stems from recommendations for the Target 97 Task Force on Truck Safety, says Tasca. Many of the recommendations made have already been implemented, including the carrier rating system and the commercial vehicle operator’s registration (CVOR) system.

“The CDIP is another phase, it is something that the industry wants and we (MTO) are certainly happy to partner with the industry on it,” says Tasca.

Existing training institutes have a vested interest in any proposals that affect new testing procedures, so the initiative will also raise the bar for education and training, he adds.

That’s something Kim Richardson, president of KRTS Transportation Specialists, a driver training school in Caledonia, Ont., is definitely looking forward to.

“Anything we can do collectively from both sides of the plate will hopefully improve the system, because the system definitely needs to be improved,” says Richardson. “I think we need more involvement with the industry and we have to ensure that those doing the testing are sufficiently trained to do so.”

The CDIP would definitely affect the way his school runs, says Richardson.

“We will adjust our programs where we need to when the changes are made, if they are ever made,” he says. “This is a long process, it will take time, but I certainly give credit to those who are at the table trying to improve the system.”

Provided the training programs are accredited, curriculum changes will likely not be necessary, he adds, as long as the curriculum is approved by a body such as the Professional Truck Driving Institute, which is designated to accredit training programs.

David Goodwin, national director, safety and training services for Markel Professional Transport Training, also looks forward to seeing improvements to driver training and licensing requirements.

“We wouldn’t have any problem adapting to any new requirements,” Goodwin says. “We like to think we set a standard so we don’t see it as a problem, in fact, we are looking forward to it, because the whole system needs to be given a shake.”

Goodwin is hoping recommendations include mandatory certification of trainers and a requirement to be part of a governing body such as the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO).

These recommendations and a graduated licensing system (where training is ongoing once the driver is employed) will encourage carriers to bring in a standard training program of their own to augment that of the training schools, he says.

“We are most looking forward to the implementation of an endorsement program because more often than we’d like, we are having to retrain drivers who already have an AZ licence. They may be able to pass the ministry’s road test but they are still not at the standard that we would feel comfortable having them at out on the roads,” Goodwin says.

The proposed changes will give the industry the shake it needs, says Goodwin, and lay the groundwork for mentoring which he believes is required to bring drivers along.

“I believe there should be more accountability on the carriers’ part to provide mandatory training and also to consider supplementing that training with a recognized third party training program. They can’t do it all by themselves. You can’t be a really good freight hauler and an expert trainer – I just don’t think it is possible,” Goodwin says.

Be that as it may, Tasca says the next item on the steering committee’s “to do” list is the development of detailed implementation requirements and a work schedule.

“I would say it would be a minimum of two years from start to finish to actually have something operational on the road in terms of the standardized road test across the province,” Tasca says.

With any initiative such as this, public education will be a necessity, he says. Which is why the project’s steering committee is composed of industry stakeholders. Tasca says he expects they’ll play a key role in getting the word out.

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