Ontario moves forward with proposal for mandatory driver training

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Thursday, February 25, 2016

Future commercial motor vehicle drivers in Canada’s most populous province will be required to undergo mandatory driver training under a new proposal from the provincial government.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has released a proposal requiring entry-level training for commercial truck drivers. Once implemented, the new rules would require any new applicant for a Class A commercial license to successfully complete a mandatory training course before attempting the road test. The mandatory training is designed to ensure that commercial truck drivers are properly trained before they are licensed. MTO also plans to update the written and road tests for all commercial class licenses.

“The safety of all users of Ontario’s roads and highways is our government’s top priority,” MTO spokesman Ajay Woozageer said in an email to Land Line. “We are committed to making sure trucking industry standards are high to keep Ontario amongst the safest places to drive in North America.”

The proposal is now available for public review/comment through Ontario’s Regulatory Registry, and can be found here. The public comment period lasts until April 7.

Woozageer said the ministry is working with the industry on the development and implementation of mandatory entry-level training with an eye toward introducing the program by the summer of 2016. The current proposal calls for a one-year transition period, with the entry-level training standard fully implemented by July 2017.

Under the mandatory entry-level training program, all organizations that will deliver the training must be registered with the province, Woozageer said. The proposal states that training providers will develop the curriculum based on new common core training standards. The new standards are expected to be released by summer 2016.

OOIDA Senior Member Johanne Couture, an owner-operator from Brockton, Ont., said the proposal is “a good thing for Canada.”

“Any step in that direction (of mandatory driver training) is a step in the right direction,” she said. “This is something the Ontario Trucking Association brought up two years ago, and I’m surprised to see it’s moved through this quickly.”

Couture said the province has been trying to address the issue of so-called CDL mills. A 2014 investigation by the Toronto Star found that unregulated, cut-rate schools throughout the Greater Toronto Area  were teaching students only how to pass the country’s CDL exam and were also taking advantage of a provincial loophole that allowed them to evade regulation by charging less than $1,000 for a course.

“All of a sudden there was a big uproar about (CDL mills) when the press picked it up,” she said. “Those of us out here on the road for quite a while were kind of going ‘Duh, we’ve been telling you about this for quite a while, but nobody seemed to be paying attention.’ … I just hope they keep going in the right direction and actually implement this sooner than later.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports entry-level driver training as its No. 1 safety priority. OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Director Scott Grenerth said the Association is looking forward to seeing the details of the training requirements.

“Ontario is taking a step forward by prohibiting ‘CDL mills’ from merely teaching new entrants to pass the CDL test,” he said. “We hope that Ontario will provide accommodations for small-business truckers who may wish to train family members. We know that these people will provide some of the best training available and would be willing to invest the necessary time to do it correctly.”

In the U.S., the first public steps toward a proposed driver training mandate are close to being completed. The proposed rulemaking on entry-level driver training has cleared its final hurdle before its public debut. It was signed off by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget review Feb. 18.

The proposed driver training regulation is the result of the Entry-Level Driver Training Committee. The committee was formed by 26 industry stakeholders as part of a negotiated rulemaking process. The group included representatives from all segments of the industry, including associations such as OOIDA and ATA, trucking schools, trucking companies, special-interest lobbying groups and one lone owner-operator.

“The Entry-Level Driver Training notice of rulemaking coming from FMCSA is required to reflect the recommendations of the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee which OOIDA participated in,” Grenerth said. “While this will not single-handedly fix all entry-level driver training issues, it will be a solid first step and lay the foundation for future advancements.”

The group agreed on mandated curriculum areas as well as a minimum 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training and a registry of driver training providers. The agency took the recommendation and was to implement it to the extent practicable the proposed rulemaking, which is waiting for its public unveiling in the Federal Register in the coming days.

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