FREDERICTON, N.B. - New Brunswick has agreed to provide funding to Employment Insurance (EI) recipients who want to take training at Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC)-certified truck d...
FREDERICTON, N.B. – New Brunswick has agreed to provide funding to Employment Insurance (EI) recipients who want to take training at Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC)-certified truck driver schools in the province.
A two-year pilot project, the plan comes into full effect July 6.
Starting that day, EI recipients living in the province will be eligible for loans from the Department of Training and Employment Development worth as much as 70 per cent of the $7,000 to $8,000 cost of attending the school.
According to department spokesman Shawn Hearn, the province will also cover some additional living expenses, but students-to-be will still have to cover the remaining 30 per cent of the tuition on their own.
He noted that the applicant for the funding will have to go through pre-screening and interview processes at a department office.
“We wanted to make sure that our schools trained the people properly, (and) we wanted to make sure we had a safe environment on the roads,” says Norm McFarlane, the minister in charge of training and employment development.
“I travel from Saint John to Fredericton every day … we have a lot of trucks … and I’d feel much more confident knowing that anybody behind that wheel has gone through this training class,” he insists.
Based on the CTHRC’s Earning Your Wheels system, the curriculum requires applicants undergo a multi-phase selection process, followed by class work and then both closed-course and road driving.
After that, there are four weeks of on-the-job training as the students work as interns with coach-drivers at a trucking company. That totals 12 weeks.
By the time a driver trainee completes the program, they will have more than 280 hours of supervised operation of a heavy truck under their belt.
“It’s a proven fact that the more experience you have in on-road conditions, the more likely you are to (be able to) deal with issues and situations that you may encounter operating a commercial vehicle,” says Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “That experience is extremely important.”
The association successfully lobbied the government to end funding for shorter courses, which are generally six weeks long and are offered at many schools in the province.
“We think that there are enough checks and balances in the system that a driver completing (this) program will definitely meet the industry’s needs,” he says, “and hopefully, add to the supply of qualified drivers required by the industry.”
“If there was one key component to the success of the program, is the coach,” adds Ted Sparks, general manager of Apohaqui, N.B.-based Atlantic Transport Training Academy. “That’s the truck driver who is working for the trucking company. It’s the dedication that that truck driver puts into it, that makes it a success or a failure.”
He adds the coach undergoes a 20-hour training course prior to accepting the critical task.
One of New Brunswick’s largest driver-training schools, Atlantic Transport was among the first schools in Canada to adopt the CTHRC-based training formula.
According to Linda Gauthier, managing director of CTHRC, only 245 drivers in Canada have completed Earning Your Wheels, and another 150 are working their way through the 300-hours-of-driving qualification.
She contends that, Earning Your Wheels is the only nationally recognized driver-education system in Canada. She also adds that New Brunswick has five of the 22 schools across the country accredited to offer the program.
It’s no secret that the trucking industry lacks qualified drivers, but, as Laurie Robichaud, of Pokemouche, N.B.-based IJP Consulting says, simply throwing anyone behind the wheel is no way to solve the problem.
“We’re going to look at what (the candidate) knows about the industry. Is that guy (struck by) what we call the Tonka Syndrome or does he really what to be a trucker?” says Robichaud of the selection process.
“We make sure he understands what the job is about … the situation with his family and make sure he understands all of the aspects of that.”
IJP Consulting conducts the selection phase that begins the Earn Your Wheels system. This includes criminal- and employment-record checks, as well as tests for aptitudes, comprehension, and English (for French-speaking residents). As well as a drug test.
The point, says McFarlane, is the investment in people.
“Everybody’s keen to make sure that this program works,” says Boyd, adding that, “there are nuances coming to this industry almost on a monthly basis. Carriers are getting to look for more specialized individuals to work in our industry.” n