Mandatory training for truckers discussed in Canada

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 9/4/2013

The head of the Ontario Trucking Association acknowledges that driver pay, training and quality of life have a lot to do with hiring and retaining truck drivers, and he says he’s willing to put it to the test. David Bradley says the OTA and other agencies are on track to develop the first mandatory entry-level training standards for truckers within three years.

Bradley recently met with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and then wrote to Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities to discuss what he calls “the problem of a shortage of qualified truck drivers in Ontario.”

The current training standard for truckers is “predicated on how many dollars the prospective student driver has in their wallet, not what is required to be considered for employment by all but the most irresponsible carriers or driver agencies,” Bradley said in the letter according to an OTA press release.

Bradley, who also heads the Canadian Trucking Alliance, cited a 2012 report by the CTA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage to make his arguments.

The report says the primary root causes of “driver shortage” are compensation, quality of life, demographics and qualifications, and that people looking for work are seeking a balance.

The report says truckers are the most important asset and calls for a trucker pay model that competes or even exceeds that of other industries in an effort to attract and retain drivers. Driver wellness, security on the road and “wasted” time at the docks join driver training as important issues to address, according to the report.

“A minimum standard of entry level, apprenticeship or apprenticeship-like truck driver training should be mandatory,” the report states. “Truck driving should be considered a skilled trade and be recognized as such by the various levels and branches of government, standards councils, etc., who certify such things.”

Training standards in Canada are the responsibility of the provinces. Bradley is calling for Ontario to take the next steps.

“Mandatory entry level training is essential if we are going to address the training quality issues that confront the industry,” Bradley stated. “And without the industry’s ability to attract young people who are increasingly turning to the trades as a career choice, (it) will be severely constrained.”

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, said her association’s position on driver training has never wavered. She says training is obviously needed, but people looking for jobs or to change careers want assurance that a job is worth doing once the training is completed.

“The industry itself has to take some responsibility if we’re going to solve this issue,” Ritchie told Land Line. “We know it’s about driver pay. Some carriers understand that they need to make that investment, but others don’t.”

Ritchie has written extensively on the topics of driver training and the so-called shortage. Her columns appear on the OBAC website under the “Director’s Chair” tab.

In the U.S., where driver training is a federal issue, OOIDA has long urged regulatory agencies to adopt mandatory training requirements for entry-level truck drivers.

The Association launched a campaign this summer that ties driver training to highway safety.

“We can and must do better to make trucking once again a career that people want to join and stay in as a way to provide for their families. If we do not, the consequences will mean lower economic prosperity, reduced highway safety, and negative impacts for all highway users,” Association Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

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