In my last column I expressed concerns with the manner in which the Toronto Star newspaper had covered a criminal trial, describing the individual charged as a ‘truck driver’, when in fact his occupation had absolutely nothing to do with the conviction.
As I indicated then, and firmly believe now, the reporter, editor, and publisher of the newspaper each demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the profession of truck driver by needlessly inserting into the headline unrelated information about the individual’s work.
More recently that same newspaper investigated the way road tests for truck drivers are administered by at least one DriveTest location in Ontario, and reported deficiencies.The Star reports alleged that at least one testing facility short-circuits road tests by not requiring applicants to drive on a freeway or a four-lane roadway in order to demonstrate their ability to merge, exit, and drive at a minimum of 80 km/h. These are apparently required elements of the test.
The question in play now is who is providing the oversight necessary to ensure that the contractor delivers the test in the manner prescribed by the Ministry? The reactions from the Ministry and Serco to the Star’s investigation were interesting: Serco responded that all of their test routes have Ministry approval.
A Ministry spokesperson responded that the routes in question “demand the same basic driving skills as the corresponding expressway would demand.”
The Minister’s own written response was that staff would take a close look at road test routes and make recommendations. While a closer look is underway, the Minister also indicated his intent to make entry-level training mandatory for aspiring truck drivers – a departure from the original topic, but a welcome one if it were to put an end to licensing mills.
It should be noted that PMTC has previously raised the subject of mandatory training for entry-level drivers with the Transportation Ministry. At that time Ministry personnel advised that the law did not allow for that concept. We were advised that it is everyone’s right to challenge the test. Perhaps that has since changed. I spoke with one of the Star’s reporters following the recent articles and we covered some of PMTC’s concerns with the existence of these licence mills, and what we see as a lack of oversight or control over the training they deliver.
I made the following additional points and asked the reporter to consider them for a follow-up article (which has not happened at the time of this writing):
First, the articles were not balanced enough to comment on the many diligent schools that provide the level of training that entry-level drivers should expect for their money and that the industry wants.
Second, I advised her that many fleets operate with very strict hiring and training protocols. For example, within the PMTC we have award-winning fleets whose initial hiring thresholds are among the highest in the industry. These fleets also provide their own in-house training to new employees regardless of the level of experience that they bring to the job. Many fleets also include a mentoring program whereby a seasoned professional driver accompanies the new employee for a period of time.
I also suggested that this matter may fall under the purview of ministries other than Transportation, including but not limited to, Training Colleges and Universities, and Consumer Services.
The latter may seem less obvious, but PMTC has maintained for years that consumers (ie., those training toward a truck driver licence) deserve protection from unscrupulous schools that deliver sub-standard training.
Having completed ‘training’ at some of these schools, and having somehow obtained a licence these new entrants to the field find themselves hard pressed to find any responsible employer to take them on. Hence, we may have a consumer protection issue.
Now, lest anyone thinks that mandatory entry-level training is a new idea, I offer a short history lesson: As far back as Target 97, I had the privilege of co-chairing the Driver Licensing Sub-committee. Among our recommendations to the Ministry were: New drivers should operate with a learner’s permit and be accompanied by a fully licensed driver for a period of time; The road test should be improved to include specific skills (identified in the report); That specific training and licence endorsements be required to handle bulk, liquid, dangerous good, trains, etc.
From 2001-2003 the Ministry of Transportation consulted with the industry on a Commercial Driver Improvement Program that developed recommendations to improve the training and testing of entry-level drivers. In 2008, the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) published its National Occupational Standards and Essential Skills Profile that defined key areas of competence that a truck driver should have.
In 2009, Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities engaged in a project with industry to establish a training standard for entry-level truck drivers. PMTC pointed out at that time that CTHRC had already done much of this work with its Earning Your Wheels training program, and that its Essential Skills Profile provided an excellent basis for developing such a standard.
The points being that in pursuing mandatory entry level training for truck drivers Minister Del Duca has access to a good deal of prior research on the subject and not a few challenges to overcome.
We at the PMTC’s support the Minister’s goal and are ready to lend our participation. It’s a good idea and perhaps it’s time has come at last.
The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Direct comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.