Ontario driver training plan calls for mandatory classroom, road practice

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 5/13/2016

As the comment period for a proposed Mandatory Entry-Level Driver Training proposal in Canada’s most populous province comes to a close, officials with the provincial transportation ministry say the plan should be in full effect by next year.

“The safety of all users of Ontario's roads and highways is our top priority,” said Bob Nichols, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. “We are committed to making sure trucking industry standards are high to keep Ontario amongst the safest places to drive in North America.”

The MTO’s proposal would require any new applicant for a Class A commercial license to successfully complete a mandatory training course before attempting the road test. Nichols says the program will aim to ensure commercial truck drivers are “properly trained, tested and licensed.”

“Based on consultations and support received by the industry, the proposed new common core entry-level training standards, competency-based knowledge and road tests are targeting a July 2016 release,” he said. “Training providers and service delivery partners will have approximately a one-year transition period to develop curriculum, used to train applicants, based on the new common core entry-level training standards, and to obtain the necessary approvals as well as transitioning to delivering the new tests.”
Nichols said the MTO is anticipating full implementation by summer 2017.
Under the mandatory entry-level training program, all organizations that will deliver the training must be registered with the province.

Among the key takeaways from the new training program will be three aspects of core curriculum: in-school, in-yard (inspections) and in-cab. The in-school training is proposed for at least 36.5 hours; in-yard training for 17 hours; and 50 hours of training behind the wheel (32 on-road, 18 off-road), for a total of 103.5 hours. In addition, the proposal calls for 12 hours of air brake training.

Classroom sizes will be limited to 15 students per teacher.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports entry-level driver training as among its top safety priorities. OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Director Scott Grenerth said the proposal is another solid step forward towards raising the level of professionalism in the trucking industry.

“These standards will prevent CDL mills from merely providing enough training to set drivers up to fail,” Grenerth said. “Instead, the entry-level driver will get a much more comprehensive education to better prepare them for the responsibilities of operating a commercial motor vehicle.”

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 on 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 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 in the proposed rulemaking, which is waiting for its public unveiling in the Federal Register in the coming days.

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