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Let’s Talk Insurance: Do Your Homework on Training Schools

I'd like to take a poll to start off this month's column: Raise your hand if you feel you have too many qualified drivers. Guys sitting around the office waiting for a load. I'm guessing there aren't too many hands up right now.



I’d like to take a poll to start off this month’s column: Raise your hand if you feel you have too many qualified drivers. Guys sitting around the office waiting for a load. I’m guessing there aren’t too many hands up right now.

We all know there’s a serious driver shortage out there. In fact, a recent industry study by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) reports that 37,000 new drivers are needed this year to satisfy demand and replace retiring drivers. And this conservative estimate is expected to continue every year for the next decade.

Now ask yourself: “Who’s training these new drivers?” You can be sure your insurance company will ask that question when your newly minted training school graduate needs to be added to your policy.

Incredibly, more than 200 driver training schools operate across Canada today, all promising their program leads to a new career. To start a truck training school, you simply hang out your shingle and go into business. No legislated national standards exist for instructors, facilities or minimum curriculum to ensure a diploma from one school means the same as a certificate from another.

That makes it hard to know which schools and programs provide quality training to novice drivers. It’s also tough on prospective students who don’t know what to look for in a school and often fall back on price as the deciding factor, only to be uninsurable after they complete that $2,000 weekend course.

Let me give you a scenario to illustrate this point: Joe’s out of work. He hears about the demand for truck drivers. Joe calls some carriers and, sure enough, they all tell him they’re desperate for drivers. One catch: Joe doesn’t have his tractor-trailer licence.

Joe calls some local schools. He settles on one. Fred at “the school” tells Joe he can make a proper trucker out of him in three weeks for $6,500. But Joe doesn’t have $6,500.

“No problem,” says Fred. “We’ll put you into our weekend program for only $2,000.”

Fred assures Joe that his school is legitimate and even points at a framed certificate hanging on the wall. Sounds good to Joe.

Joe pulls the last $2,000 from his savings account and completes the program. After finishing the course, Joe goes to the Ministry of Transport and gets his new licence.

If the industry had standards governing driver training, this frustrating problem could be avoided. Employers would know that potential drivers with decent records and accredited training would be insurable. Similarly, prospective drivers would know that the training program they’re investing in would lead to a solid job.

Unfortunately, according to the CTHRC, more than half of the 200 trucking schools in Canada fail to complete any federal or provincial licensing, accreditation or registration processes. As an insurance company, that worries us. It worries us so much that we won’t insure a graduate from most schools if training alone is what the driver is being assessed on.

But fly-by-night training should concern you too. Aside from the impact poorly trained drivers can have on the industry’s public image, they can also affect your bottom line.

Even if your insurance company agrees to insure a new driver who lacks the proper instruction, you’ll be the one to suffer if that driver is inadequately trained. It can cost you a load, a customer, increased insurance premiums, or worse – someone’s life.

Markel will insure new drivers that meet two key qualifications:

A clean record driving an automobile for at least three years (two years for straight trucks and light commercial vehicles); and

Successful completion of the CTHRC’s Earning Your Wheels Program, a Professional Truck Driver Institute of America (PTDI) certified training course, or other training that meets our eligibility requirements.

As an industry, we must become better informed about driver training. To that end, Markel has recently produced a brochure titled Let’s Talk Driver Eligibility for Insurance Coverage. In it, you’ll find our policies for insuring drivers. You can request a free copy by e-mailing us at publications@markel.ca or you can download a copy from our Web site at www.markel.ca.

Over the next 10 years, Canada will need 37,000 new drivers to move your customers’ loads to their destinations.

Now’s the time for carriers, insurers and government to establish the training standards we’ll all need to ensure those loads arrive safely.

– Markel is Canada’s largest trucking insurer, providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry. Please send your questions, feedback and commentary about this column to letstalk@markel.ca


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