National truck driver training standard is in the works, but will it be mandatory?

John G Smith
Lori Carr, Saskatchewan minister of highways and infrastructure, fields questions alongside Marc Garneau, federal transport minister. (Photo: Steve Bouchard)

MONTREAL, Que. – Canada’s federal government is committing to introduce a national truck driver training standard by January 2020, but it will still be up to individual provinces and territories to decide whether that training is mandatory.

Plans to develop the proposed federal training standard were released this week following an annual meeting of ministers responsible for transportation and highway safety – and details will be enshrined in the National Safety Code. Provinces and territories are responsible for training and licensing, however, and the code’s existing standards are not uniformly adopted across the country.

“Canadians expect that people who receive their licences, as drivers of semi-trailers – large vehicles – should be properly prepared through training before they assume those duties,” federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said, noting the ministers agreed to build on existing work by Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

But he agreed that provinces ultimately establish the standards and control licensing, as they do with passenger vehicles.

There was no reference to “mandatory” training within a related communique.

Mandatory driver training regimes

Ontario is the only province to mandate entry-level driver training, with a threshold of 103.5 hours of training before earning a Class A licence, while Saskatchewan and Alberta plan to implement standards of their own in the spring. Those provinces will require 121.5 hours of Class 1 training beginning in March. The concept has also been promoted by B.C.’s Auditor General, and Manitoba has launched consultations into a training regime of its own.

Western plans were announced in the wake of last April’s bus-truck crash in Saskatchewan that killed 16 people on a Humboldt Broncos bus. That collision, along with a recent Ottawa bus crash that killed three people, was cited by the ministers as a reminder that more needs to be done in the name of highway safety.

Quebec Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel told Today’s Trucking and Transport Routier that his province already has stringent training policies in place and isn’t worried about the current state of training. The province has the publicly funded Centre de Formation du Transport Routier training school in Montreal and Centre de Formation en Transport de Charlesbourg in Quebec City, with their programs delivering 615 hours of training, but it is still possible to earn a licence in Quebec without it.

While Bonnardel said Quebec will monitor the work by federal and provincial jurisdictions alike, he stressed that he also doesn’t want to introduce additional restrictions on people who want to work in the trucking industry.

The National Safety Code itself includes 16 standards covering everything from hours of service to medical requirements. But the provinces and territories ultimately decide whether to mirror the code within their laws, or refer to the standards within their regulations.

Still, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) were applauding the federal announcement.

“It’s a historic day for our industry to see all provinces committed to creating a national training standard,” said Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) chairman Scott Smith.

The alliance’s executive agreed, with president Stephen Laskowski noting he was encouraged by the training timelines – and that his group would continue to work with all governments to develop third-party certification programs for electronic logging devices, expected to be mandated in the same year.

Transport Canada believe regulations concerning ELDs will be adopted in the “next few months,” Garneau said. “It has to go through Canada Gazette [rulemaking process]. Then we need to allow some time for the trucking sector to put things in place.” No final date has been announced so far, and any federal requirements would be limited to federally regulated carriers.

It will be up to the provinces to decide how to implement those rules as well.

Read our Special Report on the early days of mandatory entry-level training in Ontario.

John G Smith

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

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