TORONTO, Ont. –The most common occupation in Canada, truck driver, has now become a skilled trade in Ontario through the tractor- trailer commercial driver apprenticeship.
According to Ray Haight, the current chair of the Apprenticeship Program IC Committee, and executive director of MacKinnon Transport, the program evolved out of a February 2004 roundtable on trucking.
The roundtable led to more open meetings which resulted in industry stakeholders coming together to offer input on how to promote the truck driving profession and train better drivers.
Haight said that carriers are often more willing to spend on technological efficiencies than on programs with the potential to develop more efficient drivers.
The Ontario Trucking Association then stepped onboard to help facilitate the process, added Haight, and today Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has targeted tractor-trailer commercial drivers as a growth apprenticeship that it aims to promote widely.
It costs carriers nothing to register for the program, while for each apprentice the cost is just $40.
The program also offers both financial and program development support for employers who are hiring and training new drivers.
Employers who register to sponsor an apprentice will receive a training tax credit of up to $5,000 per apprentice towards wages and salaries in each year for the first 36 months of the program, said Robin Henry, employment training consultant with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
To enter the tractor-trailer commercial driver apprenticeship, candidates must hold a valid A/Z licence and be 18 years of age with a Grade 10 education minimum.
The benchmark total training duration for on-the-job training is 2,000 hours, including up to 12 weeks of in-cab mentoring with an experienced tractor-trailer commercial driver, and up to 40 weeks of workplace training.
Once registered through one of the Ministry’s local apprenticeship offices, the apprentice receives an Apprenticeship Training Standard, which outlines the skills training objectives to be met or competencies to be acquired on the job.
The employer, sponsor, or trainer of an apprentice signs the relevant section of the standard to indicate the progress of the apprentice in meeting individual training objectives.
(At this time there is neither an apprenticeship in-school curriculum nor an approved training delivery agency).
The apprenticeship offers a valid Ministry certification and standardized training that is transferable from company to company.
“The program facilitates a higher retention rate and safer, better-trained drivers on the road. It also raises the profile of the occupation to a skilled trade,” said Henry.
Two subcommittees dealing with insurance and promotions are also heavily involved in the program, which has a retention rate of over 90%.
Lisa Arseneau, vice-president, Kimberley & Associates Insurance Brokers, said the program appealed to her because its goals are centered on the same goals that insurance has for the trucking industry.
“We knew we could apprentice drivers but could the apprentice get insured?”
Arseneau said that it is a common misconception that driver insurability begins only after 25 years of age.
To enter the US, drivers must have reached 21 years of age but they are insurable at 18 in Canada.
“We had to get the word out that the program would lead to insurability,” said Arseneau.
“The insurance industry is painfully aware of the challenges and those involved in trucking insurance are in it to support the industry,” she said.
While the word ‘apprentice’ calls for an association with a younger candidate, many of the apprentices coming into the truck driver program are actually entering a second career, and are, on average, 37-48 years old.
Some 165 drivers were involved in the program as of press time, and 10 people sit on the industry committee that offers input to government on how to keep the program relevant.
“Approximately 90% of apprenticeship training for tractor-trailer commercial drivers is provided in the workplace by trained professionals,” said Henry.
While the benefits of a trained apprentice to a trucking company are only too obvious, for owner/operators, said Haight,”additional training never hurts.”
If smaller companies are looking to expand their business, the apprenticeship provides drivers with transferable documentation that creates dialogue.
“You become more desirable to the employer, more insurable. An apprenticeship is portable,” said Arseneau, since it stays with the driver when changing jobs.
“An educated workforce is more stable, profitable and creates a more positive outlook,” said Haight.
For more information about apprenticeship training, contact the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities apprenticeship office nearest you or call Employment Ontario at 800-387-5656 or visit www.drive4apprenticeship.com.