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How will Ontario’s new apprenticeship program improve the quality of drivers?

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. - Two-and-a-half years of toiling has finally paid off for the stakeholders involved in helping create Ontario's new professional driver apprenticeship program (see cover for the ful...






BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – Two-and-a-half years of toiling has finally paid off for the stakeholders involved in helping create Ontario’s new professional driver apprenticeship program (see cover for the full story). The apprenticeship finally became a reality in June, but what will this first-of-its-kind program actually mean for the trucking industry? Industry committee chairman Ray Haight (MacKinnon Transport) and key stakeholder Kim Richardson (KRTS) are both hoping that the apprenticeship will help rid the industry of troublesome trucking mills that pump out new drivers at factory-like speed. They’ve also said that the industry can expect to see a greater interest in trucking as a career from the general public, not to mention increased retention after new drivers have gotten on-board. Truck News stopped by the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to see if drivers think the apprenticeship will help the industry see an increase in the quality of drivers on Ontario’s roads.

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Mohammed Salul, a driver with Sim-Tran in Mississauga, Ont., says he thinks the apprenticeship is going to be a great thing for the industry.

“(The industry) wants lots of young drivers and I think the apprenticeship’s a good thing, because there’s not a lot of young drivers in the trucking industry.”

As a driver of only four years, he says the apprenticeship’s certification program for drivers already in the industry could be beneficial as well.

“At least you know if you go somewhere else to work it’s going to be an asset,” he said.

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Brian Bongertman, a driver with Weber in Elmira, Ont., says having a year-long apprenticeship program will be good for an industry where many young drivers are lacking in experience.

“I know so many drivers that have come just out of school and then they’ll put on loads that are too heavy because of lack of experience,” said the 30-year veteran.

But he also says many driving schools, like the one his son went to, offer a great deal of useful info for new drivers, including a few tips Bongertman himself didn’t know.

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Mike Hawkins, a driver with Ron Rick Holdings in Edmonton, Alta., says he hopes the program will bring the quality of drivers up.

“I’ve been at this for 26 years. It takes a three-year apprenticeship just to work on someone’s toilet and as it stands right now it takes six weeks to get a licence to drive the largest thing on the road. Where is the sense in that?” he says.

Hawkins said that in addition to the apprenticeship program, he’d like to see driving schools adopt a more progressive licensing program.

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Dave Short, a driver with Swish, a supplier for cleaning companies, schools and hospitals in Peterborough, Ont., says that it hasn’t been a lack of apprenticeships that has caused the decline of drivers in the industry, but rather a lack of money to be made.

“You’re asking a person to drive a truck for the same money he could make (working from) home. So why would he bother?” said the driver of more than 40 years. “You have to really want to drive a truck. You’re not going to get the young guys unless they can see it’s worth their while. So far I can’t see that changing.”


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