Canada’s truck drivers to require 103.5 hours of training

John G Smith

truck driver training

TORONTO, Ont. – Canada’s future truck drivers will need to complete at least 103.5 hours of training to earn a Class 1/A licence — along with another 8.5 hours of training for an air brake endorsement — under standards that were approved on Friday by transportation and highway safety ministers.

The minimums are outlined within a draft version of a related National Safety Code standard provided to Today’s Trucking by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, and have yet to be officially published. Individual provinces and territories would still need to apply the standard within their respective jurisdictions.

The 103.5 hours of Class 1 training breaks down to 36.5 hours in the classroom, 17 hours in yard, and 50 hours behind the wheel. The air brake training will involve 6.5 hours in the classroom and two hours in yard.

“Jurisdictions may have slightly varying definitions resulting in minor differences in the hours in each category,” the draft document reads. “However, the elements will be consistent with the overall national standard for entry training.”

Aligning with Ontario

The hours align with Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) standards established in Ontario in July 2017. But they are less than limits established in other jurisdictions, such as 121.5 hours of training in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 113 hours in Alberta.

Western jurisdictions introduced their standards following a fatal collision between a truck and bus filled with members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.

“The Humboldt Broncos tragedy in Saskatchewan is something very high on our agenda when it comes to traffic safety, truck safety, and our transportation system,” Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure Minister Greg Ottenbreit said on Friday, following a joint meeting with his federal, provincial and territorial counterparts.

Any curriculum will also need to align with the National Occupational Standard for Commercial Vehicle Operators, as developed with Trucking HR Canada.

Eliminating advanced standing

“This is the floor,” Canadian Trucking Alliance president Stephen Laskowski stresses, referring to the requirements emerging at the national level, and the fact that many carriers still require recruits to complete additional training to prepare for a job. “If other provinces want to go a little higher, or substantially higher, that will be their prerogative.”

It will take time for jurisdictions without any minimum standard to introduce the new limits within their regulations, Laskowski adds, but he is confident that there’s a willingness to make the changes a reality.

Under the draft standard, trainees will not be allowed to apply unfinished course work in one jurisdiction to the training that is completed in another jurisdiction. And those with lower licensing classes will not earn any advanced standing toward the 103.5-hour training requirement.

The latter change comes amid criticism that advanced standing in Ontario has created a loophole in minimum standards. Students can be trained with a minimal number of hours to operate a dump truck, licensed for that equipment, and immediately given credit for a higher number of hours that’s applied to the required 103.5 hours.

Classrooms under the national standard will be limited to a maximum of 15 students. Time in the yard will limit an instructor for up to four students at a time. And if the four students are working alone, the time is not credited to the minimum standard.

“All students must be given equitable time for hands-on training,” the draft standard adds.

A maximum of four students will be allowed in a cab, but only if the vehicle can accommodate that many seated passengers. And each student will only be credited for the time they have spent behind the wheel.

Standards for instructors and equipment

Class 1/A instructors will need to have at least three consecutive years of documented experience with a Class 1/A licence immediately prior to application, as demonstrated by a driver’s abstract. They must also maintain a “satisfactory driving record” and “satisfactory criminal record check” as required by the jurisdiction. So, too, will they need to complete training and be certified as instructors, and complete periodic training and re-training.

The training itself will need to be completed with a semi-trailer that has a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 4,600 kg, a full air-brake systems, a tandem-axle tractor and tandem trailer, and fifth wheels. Single trailers will need to be at least 45 feet long.

The in-cab driving time will need to include loaded and unloaded trailers as well as bobtailing, while on-road training will include trailers loaded to 50% for 25% to 75% of the time. No more than 25% of the training time can be left to bobtailing.

Manual or automatic transmissions can be used, but those who complete the training with an automatic will be restricted to driving such vehicles with their licence.

A higher standard

“At least the drivers will have the same training as Ontario,” says Onfreight Logistics’ Steve Ondejko, based in Tecumseh, Ont. His fleet still requires new recruits to complete additional driver training in skills such as those needed for border crossings. But job candidates who arrive for the onboarding now appear to be a higher level of candidate.

“Today versus two, three, four years ago, the quality of driver is better. The training is better,” he said. “I think it’s improved the driver training facilities. They’re accountable somewhat now — but I think we still have a long way to go.”

“It’s still quite an exercise to achieve unanimity among the provinces, to respond to an industry that was not regulated in other provinces,” said Marc Cadieux, CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association.

While Quebec’s public CFTR and CFTC training schools already provide 615 hours of driver training, the new standard will help improve the training at private schools, he said.

“In the private, it was random. It was a very grey area.”

  • This story has been updated to incorporate comments from the trucking industry.
John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Canadian Shipper, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • Please tell me, where do you find a tractor trailer combination with a combined GVW of 4,600 kg.? Most Class 8 tractors alone, weigh over 8,000 kg.. I’m sorry, your not curing the problem, you are just allowing driving schools to charge exorbitant fees. Also, by making these changes, you are basically saying, it’s the truck drivers that cause most accidents. Make dash cams compulsory in all trucks, and stop trucks at scales on a regular basis, to view what has been recorded. Then, you can start making changes.

    • quote from above article,

      “…need to be completed with a semi-trailer that has a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 4,600 kg, a full air-brake systems…”

      It’s the trailer – 4,600kg is the limit for a trailer with any class of licence other than A or A Restricted.

  • I was employed as a truck driver for 20 years and I have been employed as a Commercial Vehicle Instructor for the last 10 years.

    I applaud the decision to standardize driver education. Some students require more time in certain areas of education than others but a qualified Instructor should require enough experience and training to recognize such situations.

    Instructor training is valuable, the individual doing the training should be selected with the up most attention.

    Every driver of heavy commercial vehicles should be able to explain a mark and measure of the air brake system, in addition to the correct procedure to adjust automatic slack adjusters with a 12 pack brake application process, I can’t stress enough the value in doing the auto slack adjustment properly, I commonly observe Instructors and drivers performing this incorrectly.

    My campus educates experienced drivers how to coach new students in the work force. I would like to see this mandatory. A Novice driver should have mandatory training with a coach driver for a period of 6 weeks, at which point the novice driver should be re-evaluated regarding his or her abilities.

  • Drivers should also have experience in varying road conditions ie ice mud … logging roads most certainly are not like long straight roads in the prairie provinces.

  • I’ve been an Ontario DZ driver for over 30 years.
    Why should I have to pay $8,000 and re-do my Z endorsement to upgrade to an AZ?

    • David two entirely different vehicles 5 ton straight trucks cannot weight 80.000 pounds or more combination truck and trailer requires certain skills to maneuver im a trucker of thirty years over 2 and a half million miler

  • was that 4,600 KG a misprint or does someone actually believe Trucks are that light? i agree Dash Cams could prove it is not always the truck Driver that is at Fault. also think more training should be done with loaded trailers and not just an empty Dry Van they don’t learn anything with that.there should also be better training for load securement as this is becoming an issue with open deck freight. the DOT standards for this part is way to low just 7 straps over a load of Pipe will not stop the load from moving forward there should be a law to have belly wraps on these loads for safety as well.

  • I held a Class-1 licence, drove for over 43 years and ran my own trucks for near 20 years before retiring. When I first started there was lots of manual slack adjusters( working or not). The one thing I don’t understand is, you have auto slacks that some people just drive thinking they just keep on working or in adjustment.( which they do not) How many new drivers do you think slide under their truck and trailer to check for adjustment? I doubt if there is many. The one thing other than brakes under the truck if they were to slide under they could have a look at the rest of the truck. Maybe they would see something broken, cracked or falling off. Taking in to your shops service bay is fine but when you are out on the road who is going to do it if you don’t. I worked for a heavy haul company in Texas and I was totally amazed at the drivers that did not carry any tools. I noticed it is no different in Canada. A driver told me they were hired to drive not fix. Just call and a service truck will show up.

  • It is definitely a step in the right direction. It will make the term “professional driver” a bit more believable. And, it would be great if the truck drivers get a bit more respect.

  • All of that in the name of safety? How about some help from the government to pay the $10,000 fee for the course? An high school graduate won’t have that kind of money.

  • OMG! I have spent a lifetime in the transportation industry. This is a small step forward, but minimal. Why all other trades are 4 to 5 years? The lobbyists are seemingly still in control! How many deaths have to occur on our highways before serious changes take place?

  • I am not in disagreement with what is being prescribed here, however, the shortage of truck drivers will increase substantially. The reason being the cost. Who is going to pay to have these people trained by driving schools. Don’t know of many students who will have the money to put toward learning the trade. Heard that it would be around $12,000.

  • Absolutely right. Trucks, if not operated safely, will become enormous killing machines. Thank you for the Improvement and changes in the licencing process for truck drivers.

  • This a Great start but it is only a start. For any program to be effective it needs to have skills evaluations and proper testing attached to it. A certain number of hours of training will not produce a consistent result as different people have different levels of abilities to start with. There should also be a separate standard for drivers to pull units with multiple articulation points.

  • ITS not 103.5 Hours…….its only 30 hours behind the wheel and when you ready for final evaluation road test at drive test center….do only 20 minutes driving on local roads and get your truck licence….GOO LUCK!!

  • I got my license- manual airbrake with only 10 hours behind the wheel in about one week, after passing my probationary/written license a year before and not studying at all all for under 1kcad ^^ thank you leniency ^^

  • A step in the right direction but I don’t see one person mentioning insurance. A new driver can take all the training in the world but stop into the insurance brokers office before they sign up and pay the tuition. Unless the newly trained driver plans to work for a self insured fleet for three years they will be un-insurable, period!
    We paid to train our son and he took a full PTDI 200 hour course from an accredited school so that he could take a seat driving for our small business. He has now been licenced for 12 months and has been driving under my mentor ship for four years and there isn’t an insurance company in Ontario that will list him. I am told he will never be offered insurance unless he leaves our employment and goes to work for one of the big companies for three years. I am all for the training but the government has to step in and make the insurance companies accept new drivers even if it is at a slight premium increase. If the new driver isn’t going to work for a big company don’t waste your time and money!

  • I have been driving trucks since the late 80’s. I agree with mandatory training. It is all necessary to become a good truck driver. However, I would like to also point out that all this training is worth nothing if the driver and company attitude is not professional. Drivers will do everything possible to pass the training and then once on the road, their attitude kicks in and they do whatever they want. Too many drivers are stressed and in a hurry. This alone causes many accidents on the road.

  • MELT is definitely taking a step in the right direction but, I think the system for trucks licences needs to be graduating system. Drivers need to start small and light and gradually progress into larger , and heavier loads. There should be at least a period of one or two years driving DZ before graduating to AZ . Truck driving is experienced based and 103.5 hours of training, even if it is behind the wheel is only a couple weeks worth of work while driving.

  • How many of these Training Schools actually Take New Drivers out with a Loaded Trailer with at least GVW 80,000 lbs???