BANFF, Alta. - New training standards for professional drivers in Alberta have received much publicity in recent weeks. The 35-week training program has been front-page news in Alberta and has also ga...
BANFF, Alta. – New training standards for professional drivers in Alberta have received much publicity in recent weeks. The 35-week training program has been front-page news in Alberta and has also garnered the support of key politicians including transport minister Lyle Oberg.
So delegates at the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA) annual management conference were eager to get a rundown of how the new program would work, courtesy of Cliff Soper of the Transport Training & Development Association (TT&DA).
The certificate program involves four components and will be administered by Red Deer College, Soper told delegates. The first part of the program will involve in-class instruction including an introduction to the industry and the development of essential skills.
“They have to know they’re in a highly regulated environment right off the bat,” said Soper. “People don’t always know what they’re getting into.”
This part of the program will involve 45 hours of classroom instruction over three weeks.
The next phase will be based on the Canadian Trucking Human Resource Council’s (CTHRC) Earning Your Wheels program. It involves in-cab instruction and will be offered by approved driving schools.
At the end of the seven week, 150-hour segment, students will then have the ability to obtain their Class 1 licence. But the program doesn’t end there, Soper said.
The idea behind the program isn’t to simply obtain a Class 1 licence, but rather to become a professional driver, so further development is needed, he stressed.
The third part of the program involves eight-weeks (240 hours) of practice with a carrier. Participating carriers will match students with a mentor. This part of the program addresses core competencies and provides students with additional seat time.
Finally, students will be placed with a carrier for a 17-week (600-hour) paid co-op where they will work under the supervision of a professional driver and Red Deer College.
Soper is confident the new program will be closely watched by other jurisdictions.
He said it’s even possible Alberta could help raise the bar in driver training right across the board. But he acknowledged funding is still an issue, and it’s not yet clear how much the province is willing to spend on the program.
In order for students to invest the extra time and money to take part in this in-depth program, a significant part of the additional cost will have to be covered by the province, Soper said. He pointed out that in other post-secondary programs the government usually pays about 70 per cent of the cost of tuition.
“Financial support is essential,” he said. “If a student has to pay $10,000-$20,000 for truck driver training, they’re not going to do that.”
TT&DA isn’t asking the province to fork over any capital as the truck and facilities will be provided by stakeholders such as existing training schools and carriers, Soper said, adding he’s optimistic the project will get the necessary support in Edmonton and will be implemented.
“I think we can really make this happen,” he said.
“It’s a political decision and I think the public is really on our side.”
Soper urged delegates to do their part by writing letters to their MLAs asking them to support the program when it’s before Cabinet.