Ontario truck drivers identify shortcomings in entry-level training

Most truck drivers surveyed for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation believe entry-level training (ELT) helped them pass road tests, but many question whether the training actually prepared them for real-world safety issues.

The findings emerged in a 2021 survey conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) on behalf of the ministry.

About 49,000 truck drivers have completed a Class A road test since July 2017, when the province first began requiring a minimum of 103.5 hours of training. It was the first Canadian jurisdiction to establish a mandatory training regime.

“There’s more who found it was too few than thought it was too much,” said TIRF COO Ward Vanlaar, presenting results during the annual meeting of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC).

Forty-five per cent of those surveyed found the minimum of 32 hours of in-cab training to be lacking, as did 34.1% who found shortcomings in the minimum of 17 in-yard hours. In contrast, 62.2% believed the 36.5 classroom hours were just right. About 57% said the same thing about the 18 off-road training hours.

(File photo: John G. Smith)

Fewer than 2/3 (61.2%) of those surveyed believed the ELT training made them a better driver, 57.3%  said the course helped them understand the risks of driving fatigued, and 54% said the training helped them avoid a collision.

“The takeaway here is commercial motor vehicle drivers think more training would be useful,” Vanlaar said.

About 62% of the students passed the road test on the first attempt, while 79% said the training ultimately helped them pass the road test. Those who were allowed to limit their required training hours because of previous experience also saw an increase in the number of tries to pass the Class A road test.

“Passing the road test is one thing, and being a safe driver in the real world is another thing,” Vanlaar said.

Surveyed drivers said they would have benefitted from additional training on topics such as tractor-trailer off-road tasks and maneuvers, handling emergencies, operating around pedestrians and cyclists, and fatigue management beyond Hours of Service alone.

More hands-on training in real-world environments may help prepare drivers with the skills needed to avoid near misses and collisions, he added.