Raising the bar for driver training

by James Menzies

Ontario has made good on a promise to toughen the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s licence. In late June, it announced mandatory entry-level training (MELT) and for the first time will require new drivers to undergo a fairly rigorous training program before obtaining their A/Z licence.

More than 100 hours will be required before drivers will be able to take the test to obtain their commercial licence. The new standard should eliminate licence mills and bring a heightened level of professionalism to the industry. A/Z licence-holders should arrive at a carrier’s door for a road test properly trained to succeed. Training should not and will not end there, but at least carriers will know drivers have received sufficient training on basic driving skills.

This is a huge step forward for the trucking industry. It also opens the door to potentially, someday, having truck driving recognized as a skilled trade. In recent comments at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) Council Summit, president and CEO David Bradley said the trucking industry has itself to blame for its inability to become recognized as a skilled trade.

“When I drive down the highway and I see a trailer with a sticker on it advertising for truck drivers and saying ‘No education required,’ that is not indicative of a skilled, or even semi-skilled occupation,” he said. “We don’t have any compulsory training required. You can walk in off the street and take a Class A test…that is not indicative of a skilled occupation. The fact we don’t have a formal ongoing lifetime training program is not indicative of a skilled occupation.”

All that will change with the implementation of mandatory entry-level training. You can’t overstate how significant this new standard is. Not everyone will be happy with the implementation of MELT. Some stakeholders will quibble over details, such as the allowance of automated transmissions. But remember – it’s better than what we had, which was no standard at all. Training schools that are incapable of training to the new standard will disappear. Speaking at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual conference in June, transportation lawyer Heather Devine mentioned her firm has already heard from training providers who are unhappy with the new requirements.

They will now need to invest in the personnel and equipment to train to the standard or go away. Good riddance to them if they’re unwilling or incapable of doing so. Yes, the cost of training will increase as a result of the new standard. But trucking is a career that can provide a very attractive income. As with other professions, one must make an investment before they’re able to do the job. Professional hairstylists in Ontario are required to undergo 480 hours of training and often apprentice for three years before servicing their own clients. It is not unreasonable to require prospective commercial drivers to invest in a quality training program before they’re permitted to work in this industry.

Yes, MELT may initially result in fewer A/Z licences being issued at a time when the industry is starved for drivers. But what good were all those unemployable A/Z licence-holders, anyways, the ones who lacked basic driving skills because they were sold a bill of goods and told all they needed was a commercial licence to land a job behind the wheel?

MELT may not be perfect, but it’s a lot better than what we had.

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  • Well said and I totally agree, can’t happen soon enough, cradle to grave this thing will have been just a few years, while our neighbors to the south are approaching two decades of debate and legal wrangling and are still 3-4 years away from a working law at the earliest, well done Ontario.
    Ray Haight

  • This is all good propaganda and would work in the perfect world????
    Let see after all of this be implemented and how many east idian driver you will see behind the wheel.
    They all have the same way to enter Cnada and be sponsor by their mosk so wait and see.

  • I once entered a truck rodeo years ago and found it a real eye opener despite 15+years of driving. Had it been a driving test I would have passed-barely. It would be easy for governments to create different class licenses for each class of trucking as each requires different skills with overlaps.Half the drivers out there would wake up and maybe improve their attitudes and companies will treat their drivers better