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Teaching allegiance

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - The issue of standardized driver training is again worming its way to the forefront in Ontario as the province prepares to grant self-regulation to the industry.MPP Gary Stewart re...


MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – The issue of standardized driver training is again worming its way to the forefront in Ontario as the province prepares to grant self-regulation to the industry.

MPP Gary Stewart recently announced plans are in the works to reform the schools in working to eliminate the troublesome licensing mills that plague the industry.

In an effort to join the table in a meaningful way, a new alliance has formed consisting of fleets, schools, trainers and other industry representatives who support using Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) curriculum.

“At Truck World 2000 it became evident that the training issue was again rearing its head,” says Kim Richardson, president of Kim Richardson Transportation Specialist, who arranged to bring the group together for its initial meeting. “We were asked by industry to form this alliance.”

Ed Popkie, the operations manager of 5th Wheel Training Institute of New Liskeard, Ont., admits the group is not exactly covering new ground. He and Richardson were among the founding members of the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario, a project they first discussed in 1993.

“Everybody held their cards pretty close the first time out,” says Popkie. “(But once the) TTSAO was brought into fruition it was something to be really proud of. We accomplished a lot of good in Ontario.”

He complains that following a change of the group’s executive in the late ’90s, its direction changed and started to move away from the PTDI standards.

This was not something either man agreed with.

“We continually strive for Ivy League status,” Popkie says of PTDI courses and his effort to achieve program’s highest rating of excellence. “This alliance is something we strongly believe in … We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Leo Van Tuyl, former owner/operator and member of the Ontario Trucking Association’s board of directors, says a long term vision will be critical to solving the province’s training dilemma. He adds that it is really up to industry to set professional truck driver standards.

“When we do find a consensus on standards, it’s all well and good to say you’re CTHRC (Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council) certified or PTDI certified,” he insists, “but if the industry doesn’t have confidence in the underlying product, none of it matters.”

Van Tuyl acknowledged that the high cost of training new drivers has often fallen on larger fleets.

“Six truck operations simply don’t have the capacity,” he says, suggesting that there may be a way to spread the cost of training out across the industry.

“If there was a surtax charged on your plates,” he suggests, “everybody actively training could get a credit and that pool of money could help pay for training.”

The value of teaching new drivers has some advantages which are instantly clear: safer roads, reduced insurance costs and better customer relations, to name a few. However, Doug Branton, a Canada Customs agent who teaches modules at Richardson’s school, explains that simply going through the proper paperwork required to cross the border can save the country millions.

“We see about 3,000 trucks cross per day at Fort Erie,” he says. “Knowing what forms they need will save the truckers about 10 seconds each.”

While he admits that doesn’t sound like a lot, 10 seconds times 3,000 trucks equals about seven hours, which is one less staff member. One staff member eliminated saves the government more than $100,000 once you factor in both salary and various employer costs and contributions.

“Now multiply that by how many border crossings there are,” he concludes. But saving the country money certainly isn’t the primary concern for fleets who utilize newly trained drivers; it’s largely about becoming a more profitable operation.

“Long-term, we want to bring the insurance companies together and say ‘What can you do for us’,” says Richardson.

And for their part, insurance companies seem willing to discuss the idea of reduced premiums for fleets hiring from schools using whatever approved curricula evolve.

“We want to see these companies invest in their employees rather than simply paying higher rates,” says Monte Rouse, of Royal/SunAlliance.

The idea that every fleet needs to do its part to help end the shortage of qualified truckers is one shared by many, including Mike McCarron of MSM Transportation. “It’s like melting an iceberg with a candle,” he says. “All you can do is hold it to the point in front of you.” n


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