Ontario brings road tests to truck training schools

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TORONTO, Ont. – Road tests will be hosted by at least four Ontario truck driving schools, under a six-month pilot project looking at ways to ease backlogs in the province’s licensing process.

Participating schools include Commercial Heavy Equipment Training (CHET) in Mississauga, Crossroads Truck and Career Academy in Ottawa, Northern Academy of Transportation Training (NATT) in Sudbury, and Northstar Truck Driving School in Windsor.

Tests are traditionally based at DriveTest Centres operated by Serco.

(Photo: iStock)

“The primary intent of the pilot program is to gather data to inform future decisions on potential ways that capacity within the commercial road testing network can be increased,” an Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman said, responding to questions from Today’s Trucking.

“The road tests will maintain all existing ministry requirements and standards and be overseen by fully trained driver examiners.”

The Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) reports the pilot project will begin in August. And MTO confirms the ministry is already exploring ways to include additional schools and locations.

The approach could help to recover about 80% of the road tests that were put on hold because of Covid-19, says Brian Pattison, general manager of Northern Academy of Transportation Training (NATT), which has already scheduled three days of road tests. About four tests will be conducted per day.

Ontario DriveTest Centres were closed March 23 as a strategy to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. While the licensing facilities began to gradually open three months later, full services are not expected to return until September.

The road tests hosted at the schools will help to ensure all safety measures are in place, including the measures that are helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Pattison said, referring to strategies such as social distancing.

“If they went to DriveTest, they have a lot of the general public there.”

Participating schools need to agree to a weekly or bi-weekly testing schedule, pay for a 7.5-hour block of testing each time, and submit schedules at least a week in advance, a source at one driving school said. They’ll also face a one-time set-up fee of $305 and pay $231 per testing day to cover examiner travel costs.

In addition to having a lot large enough to complete required maneuvers, the criterion involves setting routes, and ensuring that areas are deemed to be safe for on-site testing.

Required yard layouts were identified as another source of road test backlogs prior to Covid-19. Updated road tests that were introduced along with the province’s mandatory entry-level training regime have reduced the volume of road tests that some DriveTest Centers are able to conduct per day.

“They’re training on their home turf.”

– Ray St. Jean, Northstar Truck Driving School

While Northstar Truck Driving School has not faced a testing backlog in its region, the on-site exams will make students more comfortable during licensing tests, said general manager Ray St. Jean. “They’re training on their home turf.”

As promising as the approach to exams may be, the school is currently limited to working with students who began their training prior to Covid-19 shutdowns, St. Jean added, referring to the booking system that applies to his region. Northstar is still waiting for the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to announce when other training can begin.

“We’re kind of fingers crossed,” St. Jean said.

The on-site exams are not a fit for every driver training school, either.

“We’re probably not going to participate because, for us, there’s no need for it,” said Gus Rahim of the Ontario Truck Driving School in London. “But I can see in certain areas where there’s a need for it.”

The business also does not have the required yard space for the tests to run in parallel with other training, he added. “They’re going to need an area just for them, and we have to continue offering our business.”

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • … and yet we have to have third party verification of ELDs!!!
    Explain that logic.

    While I am quite confident there are schools out there that will test according to the rules and regulations, it is an absolute certainty that there will be schools that quite literally become licence mills. There are always those that will take every opportunity to exploit each and every loophole, and safety be damned. All in all, this probably isn’t one of Ontario’s best moves.

    Think of it as hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.

  • I’m not sure being “more comfortable” is something that should be a goal during a road test – I thought the whole idea was to take someone out of their comfort zone and make sure they can still operate the vehicle safely.

  • Why don’t they just go back to the old way of testing.
    The MELT program has been a fall down system since its implementation in July 2017.
    Schools still circumvent the requirements because MTO has no ability or desire to audit every school in Ontario.
    It might as well be the Alberta system of contract examiners all over. Sad to see who can’t back up a truck during an interview for a job.

  • The idea of having the test done on their “home turf” is ludicrous. Once they are licenced, they won’t be driving on their “home turf”. Tests need to be conducted in normal, not sanitized, situations. That’s why testing isn’t done by video game.

  • You are kidding right? We all know there’s a lot of fraudulent commercial licenses out there already. This is just another way to put more killers behind the wheel.

  • If these road test areas are Not in a Canadian language which are French And English as well as all signage then This Will Not Work!

  • Let’s just remind everyone what happened out in B.C. with Driving Schools doing the road tests and licenses being issued without drivers even setting foot in the truck. Get a Class 1 out there and it’s transferred to an AZ in Ontario with ease. They was a huge write up about it in Truck News only a couple of years ago. This is only gonna lead to more improperly trained drivers being on the road…. get ready for it

  • Problem is many of these instructors should not be instructing only 8 years of driving experience needed to be a trainer is bullshit Should be at least 15 years verifiable experience and be certified thru an actual government program designed to train trainer’s