TORONTO, Ont. — A recent summit on the training and licensing of commercial truck drivers has offered new insight into some of the promising practices that are being embraced by jurisdictions across the country.
Closing the Gap, a national collaboration that began in 2005 to address the industry’s shortage of skilled truck drivers, included representatives from the trucking industry, insurers, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, educational institutions and government ministries.
“Trucking has gained a lot out of ‘Closing the Gap’,” said Roy Craigen, chairman of the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC), which coordinates the meetings. “CTHRC’s responsibility is to raise the standards of training in the trucking industry. This helps to make it possible.”
Labour market agreements have recognized that provinces and territories are well positioned to design and deliver labour market training within their jurisdictions, according to said CTHRC executive director Linda Gauthier. “Information gathered through the CTHRC and Closing the Gap has helped them to identify the related opportunities.”
The nature of training and testing standards for professional truck drivers is considered to be more vital than ever, given the growing demands of the career.
“Overall what we’re seeing is an increasing knowledge content in the jobs,” observed Francois Lamontagne of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, during a presentation at the summit. “(Technology such as) GPS and on-board computer systems are forcing drivers, forcing employers, forcing institutions to adapt training and skills development.”
Initiatives in a number of provinces have embraced approaches that reflect this reality.
Graduates from the Professional Driver Certificate Program at Red Deer College in Alberta, for example, will soon receive a new Professional Driver Licence endorsement from Alberta Transportation. This approach was designed to allow the training to be delivered for tuition of $3,200, compared to fees in the private sector that would approach $14,000.
The B.C. Trucking Association is hoping to offer a series of workshops in 2009. “All of us involved in the trucking industry recognize that licensing standards are the minimum standards of entry,” said Louise Yako of the BCTA, who added that B.C. has some of the strongest standards in the country, yet there are elements that could be improved.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador’s DD Transport has partnered with other truck fleets to deliver CTHRC’s Earning Your Wheels entry-level driver training program through the College of the North Atlantic. The pilot project combines uniform training standards, on-the job experience and candidate screening.
Recognizing the lack of a regulated national training standard, Manitoba Public Insurance developed a program that included an online aptitude assessment for candidates. The students who pass that screening process receive 244 hours of school-based training, three months of on-the-job training and six months of mentoring. The related tuition is covered as long as they work in the industry for two years.
While road tests help to measure basic aptitude behind the wheel, according to the CTHRC, the tests do little to identify the vocational skills that modern truckers need for successful careers. This is why participants at an earlier Closing the Gap summit had concluded that training programs for truck drivers should meet National Occupational Standards to be eligible for government training funds.
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