Ontario driver training schools warned

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TORONTO, ON – Ontario’s private career colleges have received a stern warning from the ministry that oversees them, after complaints that some schools are trying to bypass newly introduced mandatory training for commercial drivers.

The Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) program was introduced by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation on July 1, and sets a minimum of 103.5 hours of training for anyone looking to earn a Class A licence. It’s the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce such a standard.

In a memo obtained by Today’s Trucking, the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development says it has heard some schools may not be complying with approved training programs and conditions. The issue includes programs designed to upgrade BZ or DZ licence holders to AZ licences, or simple hourly lessons.

“Any AZ training which does not adhere to the MELT standard does not provide the student with the ability to challenge the [Ontario Ministry of Transportation] AZ road test,” the memo stresses, referring to the Private Career Colleges Act’s potential fines of up to $250,000 for corporations as well as $50,000 fines and one-year prison terms for individuals.

Schools must use an online portal to identify trainees who have completed the ministry-approved training regime, before the individual can go to a DriveTest Center to take the road test for the licence itself.

Schools that don’t comply with the rules could have programs revoked, requiring refunds for students, writes Terry Tretter, manager – compliance and enforcement unit at the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development’s Private Career Colleges Branch.

Ads that promote unapproved licence upgrading programs and other “non-vocational” AZ programs could also contravene the Consumer Protection Act. That also carries potential fines of up to $250,000 for corporations as well as $50,000 fines and two-year prison terms for individuals.

There are ways for trainees to be recognized for “advanced standing” toward the required schooling. But schools must have their approach approved before offering it.

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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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