Ontario schools push for more enforcement

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Established Ontario truck driving schools are arguing that a lack of provincial oversight and enforcement is leading to training that churns out poor-quality commercial drivers – despite a mandatory entry-level training regime.

Most students look around for the cheapest deal, and are not focused on the training they will receive, says Rajveer Singh, owner of Smart Truck Training Academy.

A student driver practices backing between trailers at AIMS Professional Truck Training Academy’s yard in Etobicoke, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)
A student driver practices backing between trailers at AIMS Professional Truck Training Academy’s yard in Etobicoke, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

“Schools are opening every day but don’t train driver candidates properly. They advertise lower prices for training. If a trainer charges $100 an hour, how can you provide 116 hours of training for $3,000?” Singh asks.

“There is something fishy, they are cheating. They provide documents for in-class training, when in fact none was provided. In some cases, after just eight hours of training on the road, candidates are sent for tests.”

Ontario officially requires a minimum of 103.5 hours of training under its mandatory entry-level training (MELT) regime for a Class A licence, while another 12 hours are required for a Z air brake endorsement.

Ministry action

“As registered private career colleges, private truck driver training schools are subject to formal inquiries and examinations by the superintendent of private career colleges to determine their compliance with the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and its regulations,” says Scott Clark, press secretary for the minister of colleges and universities.

One unregistered institution received a restraining order in 2020, according to the ministry website. A year earlier, the ministry took action against five registered schools, serving some with multiple notices, while three unregistered institutions received restraining orders.

There are more than 200 registered commercial truck training schools in the province.

Jack Lochand
Jack Lochand from Alpine Truck Academy says some schools take shortcuts. (Photo: File)

“People cheat, they lie, they do everything to get a licence,” says Jack Lochand from Alpine Truck Academy. “They want to get a licence to drive a motor vehicle on the road, they don’t care what they do to get that licence.”

He adds, “So many schools are opening up. They don’t care about safety and take shortcuts.”

AIMS Professional Truck Training Academy opened its doors this March and charges students $4,500 for training. “We conduct a mid-term test and monitor their progress,” says Palwinder Dhaliwal, director of the school .

“If we feel they are not ready, we don’t book their test. People are paying a lot of money, so we must make sure they succeed. We work on their weakness.”

Today’s Trucking made queries at a school in Toronto and another in in Mississauga. Their training lasted between four and six weeks, with both offering the 103.5-hour MELT program. Fees ranged between $5,000 to $7,000, with easy-pay options, and one school was offering a discount because of the pandemic. Neither school offered job placement after successful training.

But no one is monitoring if MELT (mandatory entry-level training) is being conducted, Singh alleges, noting that some schools continue to find ways to work around the program. “If the student signs all the documents, that’s it.”

Rajveer Singh
Rajveer Singh, owner of Smart Truck Training Academy sees shortcomings in the way training hours are divided. (Photo: File)

“The person who designed the program should be a trucker, so they understand what a trucker needs. I don’t think it’s designed properly.”

Singh says, “People approach me, they say they will pay me $2,000 if I sign off on the MELT paperwork. I tell them I will not do it,” he says. “Some schools charge students $5,000. They will give them training worth $1,000, pay someone $2,000 for a MELT certificate, and keep $2,000 for themselves.”

Singh also sees shortcomings in the way hours are divided, and offers the example of coupling, uncoupling, and backing among the yard maneuvers.

 “You have to teach all of that in 18 hours. People don’t learn to back up in 18 hours, how can we also teach coupling and un-coupling in the same timeframe?,” he says.

Lacking confidence

Alpine’s Lochand feels people are not taking training seriously. “They kill themselves and other people. They don’t know the rules of the road, but get a licence to drive,” he says. “They take the easiest route to get a licence. And when they do get it, they can’t drive a big truck. They have no confidence.”

AIMS’ Dhaliwal agrees that some schools are cutting corners and employ instructors who lack the mandated experience. If a student finds out, they can get a refund. But they don’t know that and don’t check, he adds. “This is my problem with a lot of schools, and my humble request to them is don’t look for the money, you want to do this for the long run, and you want to do the right thing.”

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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  • Melt is good start to az training. I think back to the 80s when you could get your license with a pickup and horse trailer. Its is time for mtcu to enforce the melt standards. They rely on students complaints. Its time for PTDI like certification through TTSAO would work with mtuc oversight

    Right from the start the melt standards did not line up with DriveTest testing. What mess with each Examiners interpretation different. The testing on the pretrip was not in the standards
    Also the

    • Melt program is a very good way to trained the students in 116 hours..but most of the schools don’t give proper training to students.. I worked for 2-3 schools.. when I worked with my previous school .. in that school they hired their relatives as instructor to teach the students.. Because they charge less as compared to experienced instructor
      But they don’t have experience.. even that instructor/ relative get his license after joining the school.. when i found the another instructor don’t have AZ LICENSE.. I talked with director of the school and he said ….do your own work or leave my job.. then I leave that job.. because i don’t want untrained peoples drive a commercial vehicle on road.. it is not safe for my and your families.. not for anyone.. now I am working with another school.. he is very professional.. they are giving proper In class and yard training to students…. even more training to weak students.. all instructors are well experienced ….. happy to work with shaun truck driving school

  • This is quite a story. It seems to me that criminal charges would be relevant in a fatal accident. I see law suits and cash payouts. This problem has many faces. Government, shippers and carriers. Cheap is not good.

  • I work for a reputable school and as an instructor I can definitely agree with the things that are being said. Some schools cut corners and take payment instead of training properly. Having said that, the drive test examiners are the ones that pass or fail students. Some students shouldn’t even be driving cars.

  • Welcome to Dewey, Screwem & Howe
    Professional Driving School

    It is pathetic that all the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men, cannot figure out how to deal the most rudimentary of problems.

    So smart, yet so dumb.

  • Some training schools offer 200 hours of training which is good. Students learn proper.
    Now looking down the street in Brampton where i work, just this year there has been 10 different truck training schools that have popped up with a single truck&trailer and no classroom or office.

  • MELT or not, most schools simply train to pass the licensing test. The Ontario test is way too easy and is conducted with an empty trailer. In British Columbia the road test to upgrade your license is with a loaded trailer. Ontario refuses to make that adjustment. Testing with a loaded trailer ensures schools with minimal training will at least train to a much higher standard. The current relaxed testing and lack of oversight will end up killing people. The government road test is the only assurance we will ever have that students are competent.

  • I agree that there are still schools who are not teaching properly or exactly what a truck driver truly does. I’m a instructor for a school in London and last year when the pandemic hit we were shut down for 4 months and during that time there were some students who now had to wait for reopening but they some how managed to pay 200 each in Brampton to receive their Z endorsement, none of these student knew their air tests or how to do them, thank you Brampton.

    • Problem is with the system which let things slide not with Brampton. Serco let her work again who was cought taking money for passing students. Noone to see what examiners are doing. Most dangerous students pass at first attempt and brilliant ones pass at 4th. We all instructors talk about it everyday but system is sleeping. Downsview, Brantford, Orillia money get you the licence there nothing heard about Brampton test centre yet. Nothing personal against anyone. ty

  • Most of these same schools are the same schools that have signing authority for the Z endorsement. Anyone can get their Airbrake license for $200-$400 whether you have learned anything or not. No 3rd party testing required. No wonder the most common infractions on roadside inspections relate to avoidable airbrake issues. The MTO needs to cancel signing authority for Z endorsement. There’s no reason at all to avoid doing it at DriveTest.

  • What about the Driver Certification Program? Colleges can hand out AZ licenses to anyone with the money. The same trainer that trained you is the same trainer that tests you and gives the license. With no accountability or oversight by the MTCU, or Drive Test. This is a disaster in the making. It is only a matter of time until we have another Humbolt-let the lawsuits fly!

  • I don’t understand visitor visa people how they get AZ license and after that they work on cash

  • Here we go. Classroom is classroom. Not the best format for learning to be a professional truck driver. I found very little value in a classroom environment. The real and valuable knowledge and education is on the road with a driver one on one. The everyday encounters of over the road is by far more value. Take him to work in Central business district of some huge city. Take him over the mountains, take him out in bad weather. Teach him how to be proficient in backing up or maneuvering around a very tight. And yes blind side backing. Because, because it’s the real world. You folks have messed things up so much that I can’t hire newbe’s because my insurance company says they have no real experience. So your format sucks and doesn’t help the industry. Don’t think these students really need to know how to drive a desk.

  • This is nothing new, it’s been going on for years. Just rubber stamp and make them a trainer. This is also one of the main reasons that safe experienced drivers are quitting or choosing to retire early. It’s no longer safe on our roads and every year you see more crashes in Northern Ontario with the first snowfalls.

  • Why not keep track of all accidents/violations by new drivers in first year after getting AZ. All schools whose drivers have high level of accidents or violations get their license revoked and or pay substantial fines.
    The best and most effective solution I can think of.

  • We got a whole bunch of new dump truckers and live bottoms up here working. They stop traffic doing U-turns on the highway because they missed their turn, they are hitting each other head on. They can’t follow instructions because they don’t speak English. And they couldn’t dump their loads until they were shown how to engage the PTO. Then they didn’t know you have to open the tailgates.

    Yet guys like me that have been driving 36 years plus accident free can’t train our own kids.

    Only the government can come up with stuff like this. What a farce and one of the reasons I called it quits from trucking because this whole industry sickens me now.

  • I am an old trucker, I could teach them the old way the new way is not working. Trucking since the 70s

  • I started driving trucks in 1980, i was23. I hauled b trains mostly on heavy haul wood products and 5 years of long haul. My last job was a night shift linehaul cambridge/kingston. My plan was to work till i was 65 but i ended up leaving trucking in 2017. The main reason was because i didnt feel safe on the road anymore. Every night there was something going on and in the winter it was magnified 10fold. Almost all of the incidents were caused by inexperience. When I first started trucking was a brotherhood and the older experienced guys mentored the new fellas to do the right thing and that we as professionals were responsible for the SAFTEY of joe public on the highways. When i have the odd occasion to drive on the 400 series highways now all I see is agressiveness, from cars AND TRUCKS. I miss driving and being in a truck but I would never go back to it because of what its turned into.

  • The driving test operators should have the final say about licensing AZ drivers. Some of these ” driving schools” have signing authority, and that’s wrong!

  • As an retired big rig driver I see alot of bad drivers out there. I myself see some even run traffic lights this is sad. A lot of drivers out there that should have their license pulled.

  • I’m I this industry from almost one decade and teaching from last couple years. Every school is cheating the system today and that’s how they can change3… 4 grand otherwise it’s impossible for a school to charge less than 6 grand to stay in the market. Everyone including those who are pointing fingers are cheating. Problem is with the system which is unable to do anything. Everyone knows which schools have connections with examiners. And even after getting cought those examiners are still working and getting money under the table to pass students who can never pass. Serco is also guilty and a part of it.

  • AIMS Professional Truck Training Academy charges $4500, Smart Truck Training Academy advertised price on Kijiji $4000. How can AIMS and Smart offer MELT program in these prices if average hourly rate is $100 per hour for lesson. Better yet even TTSAO associated school, Metro Truck Driving in Mississauga who is executive board member offering $3500 for MELT program. This is so called PTDI certified two years insurance program offering by TTSAO schools. It proves now all schools are “Registered” licensing mills.

  • Seen a lot of close calls last few years. I could pass a truck a few years ago and not worry. Now they are weaving all over the road fooling with phones and other things while driving. More than one occasion I had to go to the left shoulder to avoid been hit by a careless driver’s. They stop on on and off ramps for no need. I have had drivers approach me asking for directions because they couldn’t read sign’s.

  • And what about the schools who pack 4 and 5 students in one truck. As an instructor I have heard nightmare from students about this..very unsafe practice.

  • It’s exactly the same issue we faced back in the late 1990s when I was a driver trainer/instructor for a large Canadian carrier – the difference between passing the MTO test, or learning how to become a professional commercial driver. Kind of sad to see how little has changed over the decades…

  • There are a lot of issues in training. Easy fix make the test harder to pass. Students can’t pass without proper training. Test are way to easy to pass. I also find it funny, some people in this article are themselves charging $4000 to teach melt and our complaining about other schools.

  • This is very sad news that truck training school are producing bad and untrained driver. But there is one issue with this statement

    “Most students look around for the cheapest deal, and are not focused on the training they will receive, says Rajveer Singh, owner of Smart Truck Training Academy.”
    The owner who gave this statement he himself advertising really low prices for the training on the radio. And he was running 4 locations of his smart truck training school. Out of 4 location 2 locations are illegally running, they are jot even approved buy the misinitry.

    So please next time you want to interview someone, please interview someone who have some smart truck training Academy advertising cheap deals just to attract more students but they don’t care about the training. Some of their instructors doesnt even have 5 years of truck driving experience but they are still training the students.

  • Congratulations Truck News! We’ve been railing about this for over a decade? Why suddenly are you paying attention to it?

  • Say what you want about licensing mills, poor training, etc – in the end they received a licence from the MTO.
    Definitely continue and increase enforcement and auditing of training schools and instructors – FYI auditing requires inspectors and resources which cost money – in other words the public has to pay taxes for government regulation enforcement.

    Or how about changing the requirements to get a commercial licence? Make the test harder, longer, more skill and knowledge oriented – basically if you didn’t receive quality training – you won’t pass.

    As long as the road test is as easy as it is – some will only train for the minimum.

  • MELT is a low end training program to begin with and if any training school or trainer cheat on that, they should be sent to jail.
    As an industry we have a responsibility to protect all road users and advance highway safety across North America.
    Roy & TRANSCOM

  • I have been a long haul driver for close to 50 years in the last 20 I have seen more fatalities do to lack of experience also making trucks automatic was big mistake drivers think they can drive them like cars at least make them learn to drive a standard first.

  • The MTO was supposed to make the road test harder, but they didn’t. All they are doing is failing more people for stupid reasons. Truck drivers aren’t driving around with empty trailers so why would the road test be with empty trailers? People should be tested under real life conditions, if you can pass a road test with a loaded trailer, you can drive a truck with a loaded trailer. The solution is pretty simple and it’s how they do it in BC. Why wouldn’t they do that in Ontario too? Because the MTO spends too much time listening to the TTSAO, and they don’t want it. That’s why…..

    • The MELT PROGRAM was put in place to make better drivers, not bad untraceable drivers.

      The problem is cheating!

      I have seening 15 trucking schools in Brampton cheating.

      The MTO need to act ASAP!!! And lockdown them down permanently!!!

      There need to be one fee across the country for truck drivers EDUCATION.

      10,000 per student for full clear policy truck drivers EDUCATION.

      Act now MTO!!!!!

  • Biggest culprit is MCU (PCC) itself , they have no knowledge about cost involved in truck training and is blindly approving MELT program for $3,999 and some MELT programs course duration in 3 weeks. What a Joke!
    And people are expecting enforcement from PCC.

  • Problem is that the students are being taught how to pass the ministry test..NOT how to drive a truck safely.
    .I personally have taught multiple drivers how to scale out a truck including sliding the wheels ! After them being on the road for 3 months

  • I retired from the Toronto Transit Commission in 2018 and took my dream job, driving a tractor-trailer across Canada. With 9 years experience from the nineties and many more as a professional driver for the TTC, I was shocked by what I saw on the highways.
    In two years the following happened:
    Three times I had to take the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision with other trucks. Once in the Kicking Horse pass, and twice in Northern Ontario. The guy in the mountains came down a hill too fast and couldn’t make the right hand curve at the bottom without drifting into my lane. In Ontario, one guy was passing on a curve, the other on a hill.
    Also, north of Batchawana on Hwy 17, a Pride Group unit passed me on a curve and I had to take the shoulder when he moved back into my lane while I was still beside him. It was that or a head-on with oncoming traffic for him. I was astonishingly lucky as there are many places on the Trans-Canada Hwy that don’t have enough of a shoulder to support a big truck. Not one trip (GTA to the west coast) did I make where I didn’t pass at leadt one truck wrecked or off the road, summer or winter. During the nine years I ran long-haul in the nineties I only had one such experience and may have seen one or two truck crashes a year.
    I packed it in. Trucking isn’t anything like it used to be, and the people being hired now are scary as hell. No knowledge, no experience, no respect for the law or sane practises, and no pride in being good at what they do. The industry has been in a race to the bottom, and congratulations trucking industry, you got there.

  • Smart truck driver academy Mr rajvir charging it’s self $4000 to each studnet . Truck news.com did you asked him how he affording ..go on kiiji .com and look at his advertising..or I can send screen shot ..aims truck driving open 4 monthes ago and charing even less then $4000 and both guys talking about safety.what a joke ….