Truck driver training plan draws support and criticism in Ontario

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 11/18/2014

A transportation critic in Ontario says the Canadian province is not doing enough to train new truck drivers or enforce existing rules on license testing requirements.

Member of Provincial Parliament Michael Harris of Kitchener, Ontario, the official transportation critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, made remarks this week on the heels of Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announcing that the ruling Liberal Party of Ontario plans to establish stronger licensing and testing standards for new commercial drivers.

In essence, Harris agreed with Del Duca’s statement that new training standards and testing requirements are needed, but Harris took the opportunity to critique the Ministry of Transportation’s lack of oversight and enforcement of existing rules.

“The ministers did announce that new standards will be announced in the near future. That’s good and moving in the right direction, but I question bringing in new standards is not going to ensure that those standards are being met in the first place,” Harris told “Land Line Now” following a discussion about driver training and testing on the floor of the Legislative Assembly.

Harris says two fundamental issues are at stake. The first is an existing loophole that allows driver training schools to remain below a provincial threshold that would trigger oversight.

“We know that there are cut-rate truck schools producing, unfortunately, poorly trained drivers who put the motoring public at risk,” Harris said, referring to an expose in the Toronto Star that shed light on fly-by-night trucking schools.

“What they’re doing is exploiting a provincial loophole by charging $999 or less, just under the $1,000 threshold that our province has set for regulated courses,” Harris said.

In some cases, Harris says, schools were only providing 10 hours of hands-on, behind-the-wheel training for new truckers.

The second issue is testing for class AZ licenses for commercial operation, Harris said.

He says third-party testing centers under contract with the province are not making new truckers drive on major highways that have the highest speed limits – in violation of a provincial requirement.

“In some cases, there were not even tests done by the drive test centers that took truck drivers out on a 400-series expressway or highway that has a speed limit in excess of 80 kilometers per hour (55 mph). This is a policy required by the ministry of them to test properly before granting the license,” Harris said.

Harris called on Del Duca and the Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, which oversees license testing by third-party testing centers, to clean up these two areas ahead of bringing in new standards for entry-level truckers.

“To be clear, there is no amount of testing standards that will really protect and enhance our safety if this minister continues to not fully abide by his responsibility for proper oversight,” Harris said. “All the rules are fine and dandy, but we need to properly enforce those rules and unfortunately we’ve seen examples time and time again when those rules are not being followed.”

Harris says he believes the problems on the highways are caused by a few bad apples and by the majority of responsible professional drivers.

“Land Line Now” News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this story.

See related story:
Province of Ontario seeks mandatory training for new truck drivers

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