Despite pandemic, DriveTest makes gains in increasing commercial testing

Despite shutdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic, Serco’s DriveTest set a record number of monthly commercial road tests this year.

The new record came in October, the first month DriveTest completed more than 1,000 commercial road tests. This after it was shut down in March, forced to lay off about 800 employees. After reopening in June, the agency ramped up commercial testing, said Gary Cook, Serco’s managing director, when addressing the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) on Dec. 17.

In a 10-week period from Sept. 19 to Nov. 21, DriveTest actually conducted 9,733 tests, a 22% increase over the same period in 2019. However, more regional shutdowns were imposed in recent weeks.

“It’s been a challenging year,” Cook acknowledged. But it has also been a productive year. When DriveTest facilities reopened, they moved quickly to address the backlog in commercial testing. It also implemented a pilot program to allow commercial testing at training school facilities.

Cook said the program was a success and will be evaluated in January to determine whether to expand the program. About 140 tests were conducted during 37 training school site visits this year.

“We sought feedback from the schools involved and our driver examiners, and they have had nothing but positive feedback,” Cook said.

Photo : MTO

DriveTest also implemented a block booking program, so schools could lock in blocks of road tests, giving them greater certainty about testing availability for their students. DriveTest also added more examiners, now counting 95, up from 70 at the beginning of the year. The goal is to have 120 driver examiners employed by the end of Spring 2021, Cook said. It has also expanded its number of testing lanes from 43 to 55, not including those located near the schools where on-site testing has been conducted.

The agency is also responding to calls for greater consistency between testing locations and among examiners. It is analyzing pass rate data from every examiner and DriveTest center in the province and will look into any outliers, Cook said.

“We are identifying those outliers and have introduced remedial plans for those individuals,” he said.

Improvements coming to MELT

John Landolfi, senior policy advisor with the Ministry of Transportation, discussed changes coming to the mandatory entry-level training (MELT) program.

One of the objectives is to ensure consistent training standards and quality of instruction from schools administering the MELT training.

“We are just trying to document everything to bring everyone to the same level,” said Landolfi. “We feel it’s important to have consistency across the province.”

(Photo: John G. Smith)

One change, coming into effect April 1, 2021, will see every new A/Z licence-holder who uses a truck with an automated or automatic transmission for their road test, be restricted from driving manual-equipped Class A vehicles. Anyone already holding an A/Z licence will be grandfathered from the restriction.

There will be new standards for driver instructors, which will have to be documented, to ensure consistency in training. The Ministry of Transportation also plans to work more closely with the Ministry of Colleges & Universities to ensure all training schools are providing a consistent level of training under MELT, through additional audits and oversight.