P.E.I. training program helps aspiring truckers achieve dreams

Avatar photo

Joel Hancock always wanted to become a truck driver “but never took the time to go do it.” Randeep Kalsi, a pizza delivery driver for the past five years, was aiming to advance his driving career. But they both faced an obstacle.

The $12,000 price tag in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) for a 12-week Class 1A driver training course has been a barrier for them and other aspirants to achieve their dreams. A P.E.I. non-profit is helping remove the hurdle and putting more people behind the wheel by paying 80% of the training tuition.

Brian Oulton, executive director of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council (PEITSC) said the Find Your Drive (FYD) program designed to address the industry’s urgent need for drivers “helps people get their foot in the door.”  

People standing in front of a truck
From left, instructor Blair Gray, and students Randeep Kalsi, Tanisha Tawil and Joel Hancock. (Photo: Scott MacLeod/PEITSC)

Funded by the province’s Skills P.E.I. division of  the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, FYD provides successful applicants with $9,600 for training. The program offers a living allowance to support students while in school and a post-training, paid work placement with an island-based employer. FYD is open to citizens and permanent residents residing in P.E.I.

Oulton said this is a pilot program with 15 candidates, and half are already lined up. “We have a long list of people wanting to join the program, it’s just a matter of working with them case-by-case,” he said.

FYD includes eight weeks of full-time training at a school and four weeks of internship. Skills gap training is also provided in case coaches identify problem areas like shifting or backing, for example.

Screening process

Applicants undergo a screening process that includes a criminal record check, an essential skills component, driver’s abstract and medical. PEITSC conducts an interview and ensures students are insurable, can do cross-border work and are physically able to drive.

“We find out what kind of work they want to do – longhaul, shorthaul, or regional. We work with them to find a company that would be a good fit. The company interviews them. If they give us the green light, we get them set up for training,” Oulton said.

The first group of three students – Hancock, Kalsi and Tanisha Tawil – are in their fourth week of training.

People standing in front of a truck with an open hood.
Students perform a pre-trip instruction during training. (Photo: Scott MacLeod/PEITSC)

Hancock, 25, said he started working on a farm after graduating high school and loved watching trucks there. He is enjoying the step-by-step training process and said the instructors talk him through issues and problems.

Kalsi, also 25, has friends working as truck drivers and is keen to join them. As a delivery driver, he said he used to be on the road all day anyways, and trucking is a better-paying job. He said the instructors had him working with a tractor and trailer from Day 1 and the training is well organized.

The second group of four students is wrapping up employer interviews and will begin training soon.

Weekly updates

The training school prepares a weekly update on the student who signs it off. The update is shared with the prospective employer and PEITSC. After passing their driving test, the students begin their four-week internship. “Once done with internship we are asking the coaches to identify areas of improvement like backing, shifting, paperwork or winter driving, get training and get them back on their way,” Oulton said.

He added that employers are waiting for their new drivers and commit to paying back the 20% of tuition the students paid up front. Most employers will pay it back over a year. “We have developed it as a retention tool,” Oulton said. “Hopefully the student will stay with the company that takes them on and will get repaid their tuition.”

No contracts

Neither the students nor employers sign a contract for how long they will stay with the company. “It’s a gentlemen’s agreement, you’d say. We are asking both students to stay with your employer and likewise for employers to commit to the students once we are done – we expect you take them on,” Oulton said.

As he anticipates a job waiting down the road, Hancock is eyeing shorthaul work “to get my legs under me at first. I don’t mind trying longhaul a way down the road but right now it will be shorthaul.” Kalsi also wants to put in the miles and gain experience. He will be driving regionally for his employer.

Avatar photo

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.