OTA Outlines New Direction for Commercial Truck Driver Training

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In a letter to the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, the Ontario Trucking Association outlined its vision for a new truck driver training regime in advance of industry wide consultations planned as part of the Safer Roads and Communities Act.

The OTA board has been discussing the issue of driver training since the fall and has provided clear direction on concepts that can shape what the future of truck driver training in the province could look like.  

“OTA believes introducing a graduated approach to licensing truck drivers, based on the configurations they operate and through a licensing endorsement regime, is the direction that needs to be considered by the Ministry,” said OTA’s senior VP, Policy, Geoff Wood.   

Under this concept, prospective truck drivers at the beginning of the training journey would enroll in an entry-level truck driver training program and upon successful completion, would be eligible to participate in a certified trucking company or driver training school program to earn a specific configuration endorsement. Once an endorsement is obtained, the driver would be fully licensed and certified to operate the specific configuration.  

There is already a precedent in that responsible trucking operations are already engaged in the endorsement phase concept, albeit not formally recognized. This is known in industry terms as on boarding/upskilling/ mentoring. Historically, these programs are self-funded by the trucking company and borne out of necessity based on several factors, including the insurability of the driver and future ability of the driver to be efficient, which is a productivity consideration for the carrier. Unfortunately, not all fleets take on this responsibility and road safety can be impacted. 

“Each configuration has its own unique operating and maneuverability characteristics, is designed for carrying different types of cargo and as the number of axles or semi-trailers increase in the configuration, so does the potential weight of the vehicle. All these factors require specific training and skills to ensure that drivers can safely and efficiently operate these vehicles,” said Wood. 

As this new endorsement concept gets discussed it would need to have a certification component and address both funding and insurability considerations. The funding would ideally be institutional like that available to other designated occupations and be available for qualifying carriers to offset some of the costs they currently incur today. It could also incentivize carriers to take on the task of training new drivers. 

Also critical will be the design of a robust and proactive oversight regime for carriers, driving training schools, driver trainers engaged in the onboarding/mentoring endorsement process, explained Wood.

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