QUEEN'S PARK, Ont. - Ontario's Provincial Legislature has lent its support to MPP Gary Stewart's resolution that would allow the province's truck driver training schools to police themselves and elimi...
SELF-RULE: Gary Stewart tells Wayne Campbell how his resolution will allow for training reform.(Photo by John Curran)
QUEEN’S PARK, Ont. – Ontario’s Provincial Legislature has lent its support to MPP Gary Stewart’s resolution that would allow the province’s truck driver training schools to police themselves and eliminate the less-than-reputable licence mills.
“I’m a firm believer that those working in the industry know best how to improve the system,” says Stewart. “Why should we as politicians sit back and pretend we have all of the answers.”
The resolution asked the house to acknowledge several key points:
the necessity for an industry-driven truck driver training criterion;
the need for the establishment of a self-regulatory, self-administered body enacted to support the direction of truck driver training in the province;
the obligation to support this body at arms-length in order that it can maintain the best practices of ensuring public safety;
the necessity to endorse self-regulation in the industry as a means of ensuring that only the best prepared Class A applicants have an opportunity to be tested to get their licence;
and, the need to support the truck driver training sector in efforts to improve province-wide safety.
“I was pleased to have representatives from the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO), the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), Markel Insurance, Zurich Insurance and Truck News present during today’s debate on my resolution in the Legislature,” adds Stewart. “It’s encouraging to have this support from those who work in the industry.”
The need for qualified drivers is reportedly in the neighborhood of 50,000 per year, giving rise to truck training schools designed to do nothing more than allow unskilled truckers to pass the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Class A test. Unfortunately, it has been argued by many that graduates of these schools, or licence mills as they are commonly called, often lack the skills required to operate safely.
“Anything that is done – either by initiative of the driver training schools themselves, or government, or ultimately the industry that uses drivers – that works to improve the training standards or qualifications of drivers is certainly worthwhile doing,” says Betsy Sharples, special projects manager with the OTA.
She adds that her association is not philosophically opposed to the idea of driver training schools regulating themselves.
“It’s been left to the government for a number of years now, and I think that most people in the industry would agree that hasn’t been the most effective way of dealing with it,” says Sharples.
Wayne Campbell, TTSAO president, explains that the next step will come some time in the spring when legislation will be introduced to make the transition official.
“This whole idea of self-regulation is still in its infancy,” says Sharples. “But a concept is only a concept until you put the meat around it.”
She insists there is still a lot that needs to be spelled out, including the standards used to judge whether a training program has value for both prospective drivers and fleets alike.
“I applaud Mr. Stewart efforts,” says Kim Richardson, president of Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists. “He’s really the one who took the initiative. He used to own a coach line, so this guy has a good idea of what needs to be done.”
He says that it is critical for the industry not to get bogged down and lose sight of what’s important.
“Let’s not try and reinvent the wheel here,” says Richardson. “Let’s not debate whether one program is better; let’s not debate whether it should be a CTHRC or a PTDI standard… this is a move to get rid of the licensing mills.”
For its part, the insurance industry sounds happy with that idea.
Charmayne Lund-Pedersen, an underwriting manager with Zurich Canada, indicates her company will definitely look at some type of incentive through reduced insurance premiums for carriers who only hire graduates from approved schools.
“Premiums are definitely going up over the next while,” she says. “This is certainly one way fleets can work to help control those costs.”
Campbell says anyway you slice it, there will soon be real reforms introduced to the driver training industry.
“The days of the $599 special are almost over,” says Campbell. n