CALEDON, Ont. - On Sept. 13, 2007, in Caledon, Ontario, a Honda Civic was struck by a gravel tractor-trailer when the truck's 28-year-old driver allegedly barrelled through a red light. Vanessa De Ceg...
CALEDON, Ont. –On Sept. 13, 2007, in Caledon, Ontario, a Honda Civic was struck by a gravel tractor-trailer when the truck’s 28-year-old driver allegedly barrelled through a red light. Vanessa De Ceglie, 19 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her sister Isabel, 23, died two days later from her injuries.
Caledon OPP laid charges against the truck driver, who was later granted bail in an Orangeville courtroom on Sept. 20 with several conditions, one of which required him to be driven to and from work by another person, but still allowed him to operate a vehicle for his job as a GTA truck driver.
Appalled by this outcome, James Faulkner, a close friend of both DiCeglie sisters, launched a petition in their names (www.truckpetition.com) calling for tougher truck driving standards and noting concern about what the petition called ‘a lack of standards in the trucking industry which allows schools to hire their own students back the next day to teach new students without proper training and experience.’
Faulker told Truck News that as of Dec. 31, 2007 the petition had broken the 10,000 signatures mark, and had some 150 people campaigning for change in the province of Ontario.
Public outcry following the accident also led to a four-part special investigation of truck driver training in Ontario by Global TV reporter Alex Pierson, who passed her road test for an A licence without, she reported, having spent one minute training in an 18-wheeler.
Featured in the report was Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley, who said that “if anyone feels the licensing is inadequate they should be turning in their licence.”
John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, was also quoted as saying that stronger standards were on the way, as was more collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation on driver training issues.
Indeed, according to Kevin Dove, issues co-ordinator and team lead with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, that Ministry and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation have already met to review training and licensing requirements and are currently working together on an approach to improve commercial driver education.
Dove also told Truck News that the Ministry is aware of the petition that asks the government to ‘monitor the proper registration of Private Career Colleges’ and ensure all accredited driving schools adopt standards suggested by the Advisory Council for Truck Safety.
But he said that while the petition states that ‘unscrupulous schools can hire their own students back the next day to teach’,”in fact, under the (Sept. 18, 2006) Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 (PCCA), significant vocational experience is required for instructors in registered programs.”
Dove told Truck News that the PCCA Act outlines new requirements for registration, program approvals, fee collection, tuition fee refunds, student contracts, financial security, instructional staff, advertising and compliance measures. Institutions offering commercial driver training are required to be registered and have their programs approved under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and associated regulations.
But part of the issue the trucking industry is grappling with is that training “schools” don’t actually have to register anywhere.
So the problem of licence mills, schools that offer truck driver training (or at least that train to the road test) but which do not register with the MTCU, remains acute.
“It’s clear that more monitoring of training schools (is needed), and criteria that would prevent licensing mills from setting up. The Ministries of Training, Colleges and Universities have started to crack down, and are putting larger and stronger requirements into place, but I don’t think that impacts anybody who is not coming under the private career college system,” noted Linda Gauthier, executive director, Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC).
Gauthier said that a lot of this is tied to funding mechanisms. A lot of these would-be schools stay in business because they continue to have access to public funding.
The province of New Brunswick addressed this a few years ago by choosing to only fund training that met an industry standard by institutions that were accredited by a recognized body, i. e. CTHRC and its accreditation process, she said.
“Is that what Ontario needs? Maybe and maybe not, but it’s clear that in the past MTCU did not have the manpower to monitor and audit the registered schools, and if today they do have that capacity, it still does not cover off the non-registered schools,” said Gauthier.
Indeed, with some 105 schools registered in the province of Ontario, the province may have to look at other ways to cover these off.
“You can’t prevent someone from starting a business. Where the licensing mills may get away with it is in the lack of awareness and understanding (among prospective entrants). It’s buyer beware,”said Gauthier.
If the licence mill problem is a ‘buyer beware’ issue, what should prospective entrants to the trucking industry be looking at that may help them avoid this scenario?
According to Bruce Richards, president, Private Motor Truck Council, it is hard to reach out to everybody who is considering being a truck driver without massive advertising programs for which no one has funding.
“Those who do their due diligence and some checking around can get advice from many of the associations and serious training schools but there is no requirement to even take any kind of training to get a licence, whether it’s a truck licence or a G licence in Ontario. That alone makes it difficult to reach out to people,” he said.
One of the other issues specific to Ontario, is that since the September 2007 Caledon accident and the subsequent Global News report, a number of HRSDC counsellors who provide funding for training have actually been discouraging people from taking truck driver training, said Gauthier.
“One, because they think that enough people in Ontario have a Class A licence and so they don’t think there’s a need for more, and two, because if the training schools have not done a good enough job in demonstrating a shortage, people are not being directed towards this training. So there’s a lot of work that has to be done on a variety of levels,” she said.
Having the ability to police or restrict the licensing mills is one area where the trucking industry would like to see improvement, but another issue is the lack of a standard for both entry level driver and truck driver trainer, an issue the CTHRC will push on its 2008 agenda.
“Right now as long as you can pass a written and a practical test you can get your licence. We’re trying to see if the Ministry of Transportation would change the classification of the A/Z licence so that people would not be able to get their A licence on a pick-up truck,” said Gus Rahim, president of the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario.
While solutions such as introducing a new class of licence may be cost-prohibitive, Gauthier noted that in Alberta and British Columbia, they are looking to endorse their Class 1 licences so that those who will become commercial drivers will be differentiated from those who will drive hydro trucks, for example.
Meanwhile, the quest for a consensus on entry level standards has seen a lot of stakeholder review of issues such as qualified drivers, funding, licensing, immigration, and training.
In the CTHRC’s recent GAP project, the Council met with every jurisdiction in the country to identify the gaps between what is coming out of the schools and what industry actually expects of drivers.
Under this initiative so far there have been two national meetings and eight focus groups, which met over the course of 2006.
“The Departments of Education, Transportation, Employment and Immigration were involved. We are
now embarking on Phase 2 which will address the major recommendations of these meetings, one of which was looking at the need to establish national standards for driver training, and accreditation of training schools. This was agreed upon by all the delegates that were there, so we take for granted that if all the delegates were there who represented the different jurisdictions, then these provinces should be looking at how they are going to attempt to develop licensing criteria,” said Gauthier.
“GAP Phase 2 will go back to each of the jurisdictions and talk to the Ministries of Transportation and Ministries of Education, Training, Colleges and Universities, and say to them, ‘How far have you gone and what are your future plans?'” she explained.
The GAP Phase 2 project is also looking at each of the testing and skill requirements in each of the jurisdictions and developing a matrix to lay it out to see how standards compare amongst the provinces on entry level standards.
Some of the gaps involve the various Ministries of Transportation not assessing for all of the competencies that the industry is looking for, and in some cases not assessing at a high enough level to meet industry requirements, said Gauthier.
CTHRC will hold further meetings with industry and government in March and April of this year and will host a national meeting in November 2008 to report on the results. CTHRC has also developed a career information Web site which officially launches at the end of March.
“Through GAP Phase 2 we hope to encourage the jurisdictions to move forward, and share information. It is an issue for them for public safety,” she said.
Gauthier said that having the relevant ministries collaborating on the licensing and standards issues will mean a more successful scenario.
“It has got to be a cooperative effort where you come together and strategically look at how you’re going to reach the goal.”
At press time the Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced that it would make some recommended changes to its driver licensing procedures following recommendations in an annual report released by the Auditor General of Ontario.
TTSAO’s Rahim told Truck News that he had received a Dec. 11, 2007 letter from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Road User Safety Division at MTO.
The letter indicated that as of September 2007, the Ministry has begun regulating all beginner driver education schools and monitoring compliance with provincial standards.
In the last year, some 22 schools were removed from a ministry-approved list because they weren’t up to standard.
The Ministry of Transportation said it also intends to introduce new rigorous monitoring standards and auditing process for driver certification and school licensing.
They will roll out new curriculum standards focused on improving safe driving skills, tighten requirements for driving instructors’ licences and reduce the allowable number of demerit points that an instructor can acquire from nine to three. New driving instructors will not be licensed if they have a single demerit point or criminal code conviction.
The ministry also expects to have a proposal for an improved graduated licensing system program by fall 2008.
With regard to driver certification programs, meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation said it will “suspend any organization found to be licensing unqualified drivers.”
By 2008, an inspection process will target and follow up on organizations that have unacceptable practices in place.
Meanwhile, a Dec. 26, 2007 proposal from the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), if passed, may help spur efforts to improve the licensing situation in Ontario.
The proposal, described earlier on trucknews.com, would soon require minimum standards for anyone upgrading their licence.
Applicants seeking a Commercial Driver’s Licence in the US would have to complete both classroom and behind-the-wheel training from an accredited education program or institution.
Drivers pursuing a Class A licence would require a minimum 76 hours of classroom instruction as well as 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training under the new rules. They would have to show a certificate from a truck driving program before they could obtain their new CDL. The rule would not impact current CDL holders.
The proposal, said TTSAO’s Rahim, is something that would help a lot.
“I’m hoping we follow suit. Right away, it means that if you’re going to be licensed to drive a truck, you must have proper training. Having the States do that right now, if that goes through, later on, they may turn around and say, Ontario drivers may not be meeting their standards to drive on their roads. If our Ontario Ministry allows our drivers to go do a road test, sometimes without having actually driven in an 18-wheeler, what does that say about us?” he said.
While the proposed changes will probably come as no comfort to those who have lost loved ones to accidents involving improperly licensed drivers (whether commercial or otherwise), there is no question that any move toward improved regulation and a set of agreed upon training standards is more than overdue in an industry that is constantly fighting to improve its image as a safe one for all drivers.
‘It’s clear that more monitoring of training schools (is needed).’