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Quebec paves way for young drivers to begin trucking careers

MONTREAL, Que. - Current Class 1, 2 and 3 licensing laws in Quebec make it pretty much impossible to start driving tractor-trailers, straight trucks or buses before the age of about nineteen-and-a-half.


MONTREAL, Que. – Current Class 1, 2 and 3 licensing laws in Quebec make it pretty much impossible to start driving tractor-trailers, straight trucks or buses before the age of about nineteen-and-a-half.

This disincentive to those looking for a first career has, however, been removed for 40 lucky young people aged 17 and 18.
This opportunity will unfold in the Programme enrichi d’acces a la conduite de vehicules lourds (enriched access program toward the driving of heavy vehicles) which is made possible by the temporary suspension of the law that sets the minimum age at which a person can get a Class 1, 2 or 3 licence at 19.

Starting this July, the province’s two big driver training schools – the Centre de formation du transport routier Saint-Jerome (CFTR) north of Montreal and the Centre de formation en transport de Charlesbourg (CFTC) near Quebec City – will have eight months to recruit a total of 40 young hopefuls; they will start training as they apply and are accepted, not all at once.

They will study, train, get their licences and hit the road, under supervision. Their performance will be monitored and in 2014 the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) will decide whether to expand the program.

Under Quebec’s current licensing regime, people may apply for their Class 5 learner’s licence at the age of 16. They must hold it for a minimum of 12 months before taking their tests for a Class 5 licence. This licence is probationary for 24 months before a full Class 5 licence is issued.

Drivers may only apply for a Class 1 licence (for simplicity’s sake, I’ll not mention the Class 2 or 3 licences again, but they are implied) after having held their Class 5 licence for 36 months, or having held it for 24 months, plus taken one of the SAAQ-approved commercial driver training programs.

Consequently, high school graduates wanting to get into trucking must wait for several years, while their peers can go directly into other training programs. This has long been seen as a major disincentive to becoming a trucker.

“The transport industry anticipates a lack of labour. The average age of drivers is rising and the industry is not sufficiently attractive to young drivers. How can the industry be made more attractive to them?” observes Sylvie Lemieux, directrice du developpement en securite routiere, SAAQ (director of highway safety development).

The program will permit drivers as young as 17 to drive a heavy truck with full Class 1 driving privileges. Their Class 1 licences are termed learner’s licences until the 24-month probationary period for their Class 5 licences ends.

There are some restrictions; ie., they will not be allowed to transport dangerous goods or drive trucks operating with special permits. Their Class 1 licences will only be valid within Quebec.

SAAQ is adding additional material to the CFTR and CFTC programs the young drivers will take, and trucking companies are being asked to partner with the schools and take on the graduates as apprentices – an obligatory part of the program.

“On the industry side the Quebec Trucking Association is looking for companies to take on the young people. Those interested companies will twin with the CFTR and CFTC,” Lemieux says.

Participating carriers must meet several conditions. For example, they must not have been the subjects of any intervention under the Conduct Review Policy for Heavy Vehicle Owners and Operators. Each must designate an employee who is at least 25 and who has held his Class 1 for at least five years to accompany their students during their apprenticeship. The carriers will also have to assess the young drivers and provide reports to SAAQ.

The designated employee is not obliged to ride in the cab with the young driver, but he can if he judges it to be necessary. Following behind in another truck is another option. The designated employee will also be expected to coach the young driver on good driving behaviour; SAAQ notes that 80% of highway accidents are related to driver behaviour.

During the young drivers’ probationary periods they will be evaluated on the road 13 times by a company employee who has received special training under the supervision of the CFTR or CFTC.

The CFTR and CFTC will be responsible for finding applicants to the Programme, with recruiting assistance from Camo-route, a Montreal research and resource company specializing in the trucking, bus and taxi industry.

The program will be carried out under the watchful eyes of representatives from nine different bus, trucking, heavy machinery, transport and school associations. Lemieux notes, “the associations are extremely interested in collaborating with this program.”


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