A two-part Toronto Star feature has taken aim at so-called “licensing mills” and examines the call for mandatory entry level training for truck drivers in Ontario.
The Star’s reports investigates sub-standard, “cut rate” truck driving training schools – dubbed “licensing mills” or “puppy mills” in professional trucking circles – that charge driving students about $1000 or less for inadequate training. As the article points out, many students that take courses at these unregulated schools are “trained just enough to pass the road test” for their AZ licence but while they gain “easier and faster” entrance into the trucking industry, they are often find they are unemployable to reputable and decent-paying trucking companies because they have no acquired the necessary skills and knowledge for the job.
The Star observed one particular training centre for several weeks where tractor-trailer students were never trained on 400-series highways with higher speeds and lane merging. None of the test routes observed by the Star had roads with speed limits of 80 km/h or higher.
Reporters also observed the road route portion of the DriveTest exams and timed them at about 15 minutes.
The Star report highlights how there is no specific requirement for any tractor-trailer driving instruction in Ontario. “Candidates are not asked where they were trained — or if they were trained — before booking a provincial DriveTest exam.”
In stark contrast, “an Ontario forklift operator must have formal training to meet Ministry of Labour safety standards,” the report points out.
Interviewed by the Star, OTA President David Bradley, said it is “bizarre” that tractor-trailer drivers are not skill-tested on major highways where the industry works alongside the motoring public.
OTA supports mandatory entry level training for new truck drivers, where a minimum standard of entry level, apprenticeship or apprenticeship-like truck driver training should be required. OTA would also like to see truck driving recognized as a skilled trade by the various levels and branches of government, standards councils.
Bradley told the Star said he would like to see several elements of the current examination made more rigorous, particularly when it comes to testing drivers’ abilities to back a tractor trailer into a working loading dock.
In the second part of the series, the newspaper examined dozens of centres in the GTA that operate by taking advantage of “lax oversight” by the provincial government.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities issued a statement saying students should verify that their school is accredited by the province. Approved truck training courses must be at least 200 hours in duration, including 50 hours of on-road instruction.
Yvette Lagrois, president of the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario, tells the Star how difficult is it to keep unregulated schools from cropping up. “Think of whack-a-mole at the CNE. What happens? You whack a mole and another one comes up. Anybody with a cellphone and a truck can put out an advertisement on the web,” Lagrois said. “But they may be here today, gone tomorrow.”
OTA member Kim Richardson of KRTS Transportation Specialists was also interviewed. He said these “licensing mills” put the public at risk.
While Ontario’s commercial truck drivers as a class have a sound safety record (the Star notes a small minority of truck-car collisions are the truck driver’s fault), Bradley said improved defensive-driving training from mandatory, regulated schooling could potentially reduce crashes even further.
“We’re held to a higher standard, and so we should be, because we share our workplace with the public,” Bradley said. “… we want to be continuously improving.”
Bradley added that a mandatory standard created by the trucking industry and enforced by the province would make the cut-rate schools do one of two things:
“They’ll either have to up their game to meet the standard that the industry has set, or they’ll go out of business. And frankly, either one works for me.”