Dishonest schools hinder safety

“There is no shortage of drivers, there is a shortage of quality drivers,” says a trucking consultant.

Paramjit Singh of FSI Freight Solutions says Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) is approving commercial truck driver training schools and standards are exposed when new drivers seek employment. “Majority of new drivers cannot be hired,” he says.

An instructor explains how to inspect a fifth wheel at Global Truck Academy in Brampton, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

The Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and its regulations protect fee-paying students as consumers of private vocational training services, says Scott Clark, press secretary, office of the minister of colleges and universities.

There are schools that believe in doing the right thing in preparing their drivers the right way to be safe, says Philip Fletcher, operations manager for Commercial Heavy Equipment Training (CHET) in Mississauga, Ont.

It is astonishing how some “fly-by-night” schools get drivers through to testing levels, he says. “I have seen a guy with a truck on weekends setting up cones in a parking lot, getting students to practice backing maneuvers,” Fletcher says.

Finding space to train drivers is a major problem for driving schools in Brampton, Ont. says Surinder Batth, director of Global Truck Academy which is based in the city. “We have docks here and we train students in a working yard. Technique is important to develop skills,” he adds.

The dishonest school industry is rampant and disgusting, says the head of the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario’s (TTSAO) insurance group.

A student inspects a tire during pre-trip inspection training at CHET in Mississauga, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Lisa Arseneau says she has received training certificates that do not state the number of hours a student has trained. “When I go back and tell them that, the school simply changes the certificate, and it says 200 hours. That’s illegal. But they do it.”

The consultant Singh says the MCU does not have the infrastructure to keep an eye on schools that are mushrooming in the Greater Toronto Area, especially in the Peel region. Quality of drivers is missing, but there is quantity, he says.

Targeted investigations

The ministry’s Clark says the superintendent undertakes targeted investigations of specific groups of private career colleges, where warranted, and based on the kind of training they provide and investigates all reports and allegations of non-compliance in the private career college sector brought to their attention.

“The superintendent may, at any time, examine a private career college at their discretion utilizing a risk and evidence-based approach to unannounced compliance related inspections,” Clark says.

When companies hire new drivers, Arseneau says, insurance companies not confident about the candidate’s skills, can ask for an independent road test to be administered.

“You are going to have fleets that lower their standards and don’t inform their insurers about new drivers,” she says. “They won’t disclose the driver to the insurance company and that contravenes their policy. And if they get caught, they can lose their insurance, they can have their claims denied.”

But it is a risk they are willing to take, she says, because they want to move freight.

Global Truck Academy’s Batth, who is hoping to be accredited by the TTSAO shortly, says a proper attitude is key to producing safe drivers. He focuses on proper pre-trip inspections and defensive driving while training students.

A student receives in-cab training at Global Truck Academy in Brampton, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Ramanpreet Kaur Gill, who recently earned her A/Z licence after training at Global Truck Academy, says a friend referred her to the school because of the instruction techniques and good results.

She will not be hopping into a truck and hitting the road. “I plan to start a trucking business with a family member,” she says.

Former CHET student Orhan Senlik said, “You get what you pay for. A great classroom environment, lots of apparatus to teach students, simulators, virtual reality and newer equipment compared to other schools that may be less expensive.”

Senlik obtained his A/Z licence and is working at Musket Transport.

Fletcher says he is not a big fan of the MELT program because of its minimum entry level standard. “They call it mandatory; I call it minimum,” he says.

“If you are doing the bare minimum in any industry, does that speak for how well you have adapted to the skills and knowledge of that industry, if all you are required to have is the minimum level?” he asks.

“Until we clean up our industry, this is not going to solve itself.”

Lisa Arseneau, head of TTSAO’s insurance group

Insurance companies must place more curbs on trucking companies, Singh says. You see new drivers operating new trucks. “I don’t give my car keys to my son and companies are giving equipment worth $200,000 to new drivers,” he says.

Arseneau would like to see more enforcement with more teeth. “I’d like them to audit better, that’s the only way we are going to weed out the bad schools. I feel a lot of bad actors in the trucking industry have been caught, a lot of them have been placed out of business but not enough,” she says.

“Until we clean up our industry, this is not going to solve itself.”

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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  • There is enough red tape in the industry, there is no need for more. Is there data to support these claims from the “approved schools?”

  • Take a road trip on hwy 11 from North Bay to Nipigon..My husband has been driving truck for 19 years and refuse to go from nipigon to smooth rock falls now at night.. drivers all over the road, riding right on your ass pushing you..passing when Not safe at all,running other trucks off the road
    This hwy is so busy due to the fact that many untrained drivers are using it because it’s much easier then trying to pull the hills of hwy 17

    • It’s the same on 11/17 between Raith and Upsala. There are a lot of truck collisions on that stretch of highway.
      I drive a bus and try to grab the hwy 17 route south of Nipigon because most of the scary drivers take hwy 11.

  • A lot of these companies from what I understand are self insured!
    Most of our accidents here on Hwy 11/17 are new drivers and all have this same last name Singh!! Hmmm

    I was on the highway for 30 years plus and no more
    Because of these terrible drivers, it’s scary

  • So thank you captain obvious all of us in the industry are well aware of everything you just said in the article. So why don’t you publish this out to the general public in a loud way because until one of these untrained people kills someone important or a relative of a political person nothing absolutely nothing will ever be done about this and at that point nothing really matters because it’s TOO late

  • As long as a very minimal requirement for skill is needed to achieve an AZ licence – then all a “school” needs to do, is train for that minimum.
    Simple – raise the standard for passing a proper road test – and – any school that can’t maintain a pass rate (60%) is out of business. No need for inspectors etc. (Quality schools have a first time pass rate of 80% and higher). The MTO road test is not good enough . Raise the requirements to reflect more of an industry standard and immediately by default the training standards will be raised to a new minimum.
    Currently, the pass rate in Ontario is 53% for first attempt. Brampton and Downsview account for 60% of all A road tests.
    The issue of fraudulent carriers regarding hiring of drivers and insurance etc. is not a problem of, or created by poor training. But stopping the supply of poorly trained and yet licensed drivers by raising the standard for testing will definitely help.

  • Old news…. Ask anyone who’s been on the road for any length of time what the problem is. Our government better get control of this, how many people have to die on our hwys before they open up there eyes. Families of victims of accidents should sue the government for allowing this to get out of hand.

  • “Qualified” drivers who can’t back up. What good are they to anyone?
    These so-called “schools” are just stealing money from their students because the training is so poor, few places will ever hire them.
    I had a fellow the day before yesterday hook on to a trailer. He was having trouble with his air lines and asked if I could help No wonder, he was trying to connect red to blue. Trailer wasn’t colour coded He didn’t know how as his trailers had always been hooked for him to take. How did he get past the road test?
    Shameful, yet frightening, that he didn’t even know the basics.

  • I went through driving school back in 2006 and it really wasn’t a very good place to learn. For the brakes it was basically classroom with little to nil real knowledge. As for driving their main concern was driving forward, checking your mirrors every 5 – 10 seconds and ability to change gears without grinding them. Disconnect and connect to a trailer. Nil to minimum on backing up. A school that should never have been allowed to train drivers for their AZ.
    I was lucky I got a great boss afterwards as he got me at first driving Tandems, after about 6 months connecting up to a pup the later onto a wagon. It was upwards of a year before he hooked me up with and old end dump. After about a year or so
    with lots of on hand experience I am comfortable driving A trains, B trains etc and I credit it my old boss from years gone by, very little to the truck driving School.

  • The shortage is not of qualified drivers either. THERE IS HOWEVER A SHORTAGE OF CARRIERS THAT WILL PAY A PROPER RATE FOR QUALIFIED DRIVERS. Think about that for a minute!!!!

  • This global truck academy is looking publicity to promote his $4500 Melt program price through truck news media. Truck news should investigate thoroughly before introduce these so called newbie like global truck academy. No knowledge and no qualification.

  • During the seventies, I took an early tractor trailer course from George Brown College, with my Chauffeur grade drivers license.
    I was driving straight truck and wanted to upgrade. The company I worked at happily paid for the course.
    If I remember correctly, the course was about eight or ten weeks long, three evenings per week.
    Consisting of classroom and practical. Both in a yard, Pier 14, and on the streets of Toronto with gently used equipment from Smith Transport.
    The coarse was informative and useful.
    It was also very “entry” level training, with clear in-site, as to how much a did not know.

    To the betterment of this industry, trucking, needs to be a “Registered Trade”.
    With proper training, a complete coarse outline, coupled with written and practical qualifying testing.

  • The solution is gov insurance like BC and manitoba have and make every trucking company that brings in a foreign driver put $10,000 into a fund to train another person that is already in Canada. Also have truck driver pay set based on years of experience with set min. And make sure that sick and injured truck drivers get all required medical treatment at no cost to the driver. This not happening in Ontario at this point in time. Also the ont gov needs to hire 20 people to inspect schools across ont and have a toll free number for students to call that feel they are not getting enough training or their employers are not paying for things physiotherapy or chiropractors or acupuncture and a safe spot to stay and get better if they no permanent address including people on work permits. This is going to cost money and would require a major change in some people thing and along with overtime pay and more parking would bring more people to truck. Driving and allow companies to set higher standards of drivers.

  • Big Question when will a truck driver be considered worthy of being part of the Ontario College of Trades. We can haul the gravel, the machinery, the building material and all other products that move by truck to people who are part of the College of Trades. Since when is going down the road with a gross weight of 63500 kg not considered skilled without killing someone. When the goverment believes that some guy who went to a crook school and gets his license with crap training can now safely operate this vehicle and is legal to. Or as stated by the lady who got her license she is opening a company. Wow another problem whats her experience?

  • When I challenged the AZ I had been driving heavy for some time but needed full A . When I did my road test I had to do a full in cab, outside, couple, then road test describing every item and the inspection procedure . We sent some drivers to upgrade with the new program. They already pull 40 and 50ft trailers with ARZ but need full AZ. Found a cheap school. Apparently the test facilities now only ask a certain number of specific questions about specific items. The school only teaches these very specific answers . When my guys asked about all the other stuff, they were told they don’t want them to get confused at the test. They only teach the answers to the questions they know will be asked? Not the other hundred important things. Drivers went on drives with the instructor, took all the corners right, reversed into the loading dock. No brainer auto trans, Instructor said they were ready to go and booked tests. Absolute minimum of road training and only coaching how to pass the test not ALL the other critical elements of driving heavy. The test facilities need to be sure operators are truly familiar with all equipment by throwing lots of random curve balls and road tests should all be done in a manual trans truck where you just cant fake it.

  • I am from Manitoba and agree with most of the comments following this article. Our MELT program has many of the same problems here. Same problem with fraudulent schools, and our province has everything set up and administered by Manitoba Public Insurance which is the problem. They should be in the insurance business and let another department that is more sympathetic to our industry look after MELT. A good fair drivers test is also the problem.

  • Don’t only blame the ministry.
    What about the carriers who hire the drivers?
    How about the insurance companies?
    Why not the shippers who don’t verify the carriers that they hire?
    In an unfortunate incident, who pays to replace their ship,ment?
    I almost forgot: most transport equipment is financed: who pays for damaged or destroyed trucks and trailers?

    Too many questions; there is no easy solution!