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OTA looks to update air brake training

TORONTO, Ont. - The Ontario Trucking Association has unveiled a proposal to revise the province's air brake endorsement training program and aims to eliminate many of the problems built into the curre...


TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario Trucking Association has unveiled a proposal to revise the province’s air brake endorsement training program and aims to eliminate many of the problems built into the current government curriculum.

According to OTA technical advisor Rolf Vanderzwaag, truckers can’t be blamed for the crisis surrounding brake maintenance and failures, since the tools used to train students don’t meet the needs of truck drivers.

The current method confuses drivers with mechanics, he said, but the emphasis of the OTA proposal is on the real world. In a proper air-brake endorsement class, Vanderzwaag said, “if you have a truck there you have everything you need.”

In an interview at Truck World 2000, he noted that the current materials used by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation reflect what the technicians who designed the program knew, rather than what drivers need to know in their day-to-day duties.

He blamed that flaw on “philosophical differences” and said that the emphasis on pictograms and cut-aways of air brake parts in Ontario’s curriculum was “grand fathered in” from a model already in place in British Columbia. That province pioneered air brake endorsement training programs in Canada, largely because of the stress created by its mountainous terrain.

Since Ontario’s program was simply a cut-and-pasted version of B.C.’s methods, its problems were transferred like a computer virus. The most glaring issue is the emphasis on eye-catching cut-aways and diagrams – which, in Vanderzwaag’s opinion, emphasize information that no professional driver will ever need to know to operate an air-brake-equipped truck.

An additional problem is that the province’s current course, of 10 hours crammed into one day, also defeats the purpose because “no one can sit in a class and listen for that long.”

The OTA proposes a 12-hour program over two days. That way, students are better able to absorb the material, he said.

Proposed modules aim at training drivers to understand the fundamentals of the way the brakes work, the handling characteristics of how air-braked vehicles react, and the safety regulations surrounding air brakes.

As would be expected from such a wide-ranging overhaul, the teachers of the program will also require training and skills upgrading.

The OTA’s proposal does allow for the training to be optional, as with the current regimen. But, as Vanderzwaag points out, “you can do the (Z endorsement) test without taking the course, but you’ll probably fail.”

“The Ministry (of Transportation) is starting to realize that it has a problem, that now is the time for change,” Vanderzwaag added of the hoped-for program.

If all goes according to plan, the changes would come into effect by March, he said.

Ministry spokesman Bob Nichols said it and the OTA, as well as other “industry stakeholders,” have been working toward improving the air brake endorsement program for about a year. Nichols said the need for the improvement sprung from Target ’97, a government-industry task force into the province’s trucking industry.

Nichols couldn’t elaborate on when the OTA-proposed changes could take effect. n


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